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Ben Benn papers, 1905-1993

Biographical Note

New York painter Ben Benn was born in Russia in 1884 as Benjamin Rosenberg and died in 1983. Benn studied drawing and painting at the National Academy of Design from 1904-1908 and had his first exhibition, "Oils by Eight American Artists," at the Artists' Gallery in 1907. In 1916, Benn participated in the "Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters" at the Anderson Galleries, along with artists Thomas Hart Benton, Oscar Bluemner, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Man Ray, Abraham Walkowitz, and others. The exhibition was important in advancing the cause of modern art in American, particularly the American avant-garde and was recreated by the Whitney in 1983.
Best known as a modern painter who assimilated in his early style the influences of Matisse, Picasso, and Kandinsky, Benn's first one-man show was held at the J. B. Neumann Gallery in 1925. Portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes formed the core of Benn's subject themes and he often shifted between abstract and figurative images. He is known for his strong joyful colors, thick brush strokes and energetic paintings.
Benn was featured in over twenty one-man exhibitions and countless group shows. Major exhibitions included Abstract Painting in America (Whitney Museum, 1935), American Painting Today (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1950), and Ben Benn, Painter (The Jewish Museum, 1965). The Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. honored Benn with a one-man show on his ninetieth birthday (1974). His work is in permanent museum collections in both the U.S. and abroad including the Albany Institute of Art, the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum, the Knoxville Art Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Newark Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as the Museum of Arts, Ein-Harod in Israel and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland.
Ben Benn was a recipient of several awards for his achievement in painting. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts honored Benn with the Henry Schiedt award (1952) and the Carol Beck Gold Medal (1965); Benn was also the recipient of the Knoxville Art Center Purchase Prize in 1961. In 1970 Benn was a beneficiary of the Childe Hassam Fund awarded through the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Benn's work is in permanent museum collections in both the U.S. and abroad including the Albany Institute of Art, the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum, the Knoxville Art Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Newark Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as the Museum of Arts, Ein-Harod in Israel and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland.