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Adorning the walls of Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, “The Sources of Country Music” has five distinct scenes depicting the music of ordinary Americans. It preserves an image of American folkways that were rapidly disappearing, from barn dances to church spirituals to Appalachian ballads. Benton was 85 when he painted this mural; it was Thomas Hart Benton’s final work.

George Caleb Bingham’s crowded composition “The County Election” suggests the inclusiveness of democracy. Young or old, rich or poor, all of the men gathered at the foot of the courthouse on Election Day appeared as equals. The lack of a single dramatic focus emphasized the ideal that no one vote was worth more than another.

Picturing America has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom.
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