Benton’s comment to Time in 1941 that lost him his job at the Kansas City Art Institute reveals an extreme dislike and mistrust for museums that is typical of Modern artists in the first half of the twentieth century: “I'd have people buy the paintings and hang them in privies or anywhere anybody had time to look at 'em. Nobody looks at 'em in museums. Nobody goes to museums. I'd like to sell mine to saloons, bawdy houses, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce—even women's clubs.” In place of the museum, Benton values the direct encounter between art and everyday life. This claim is common to the European avant-gardes of this period: the Italian Futurists called for the burning of the museums, the Dada artists demanded an end to art, and the Surrealists denied that their works were even art. The goal of these claims was to shift art out of the domain of the elites in the museum.
The subjects of Benton’s works—common people going about their daily activities—and the realism of his technique are both features that define the Regionalist movement he helped create. His shift to large, public murals for the last thirty-five years of his career is related to his rejection of museums and the creation of valuable objects for the appreciation of an elite audience centered around the museum.