Ben Benn (Benjamin Rosenberg)
(1884 - 1983)
Benn Benn was a pioneer American modernist whose independent style defied stylistic classification.
Despite excursions into Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, Benn "seems always to have been a 'subject' painter. Considering this, it is remarkable that he remained visible at all during the 50's and early 60's, when prejudice against the representational amounted nearly to a proscription of it."
Benn was born in Russia and immigrated to New York with his family in 1889.
After studying drawing in high school, he attended the National Academy of Design in New York City from 1904 to 1908, where he received traditional art training with Jewish classmates Benjamin *Kopman and William *Zorach.
His first exhibition, "Oils by Eight American Artists," showed in New York at the Artist's Gallery.
A 1915 El Greco exhibition at the Knoedler Gallery made an important impact on Benn, after which time he began to gently distort the human figure and employ a more painterly approach.
Benn participated in the Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters in 1916, organized by avant-garde artists of the period, including Alfred *Steiglitz. Although at times his palette would darken, throughout his career Benn painted simplified portraits, stilllifes, and landscapes, influenced by the vibrant and colorful fauvist tendencies of Henri Matisse and the vigorous brushstroke of Chaim *Soutine.
He had several one-man shows, notably an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in 1965. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Benn's prominence in the art world over 6 decades was reaffirmed at a 90th birthday show at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1974.
Ben Benn's work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from 48 USD to 15,600 USD, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2000 the record price for this artist at auction is 15,600 USD for STATEN ISLAND LANDSCAPE, sold at Sotheby's New York in 2003.