Thomas Hart Benton was a short, slim man, with a weather-beaten face and a thick mustache. During waking hours he drank steadily but never enough to impair the performance of his self-appointed role: America's greatest painter. Benton's ability to hold his liquor was a metabolic quirk; he presented it as an admirable trait of character, a willed virtue. To drink like a manly man was to prove himself unfit for the world of art. Museums, he explained to interviewers, were sanctuaries for effeminate types too ready to dote on the fashionable obfuscations of avant-garde theory—especially the Parisian kind. Benton particularly needed to attack Paris. When he was nineteen, his well-to-do family sent him there to study art, and the city's avant-garde seduced him.