|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following obituary is from the New York Times, June 3, 2001 |
Robert L. Benney, 97, Prolific Combat Artist, Dies
By WOLFGANG SAXON
Robert L. Benney, a prolific painter and illustrator who belonged to the
vanishing breed of American combat artists, died on May 14 in Boston. He was
97 and had recently moved to Boston from Manhattan. Mr. Benney was widely shown, starting with an exhibition of theater drawings at the Museum of the City of New York in 1933. His portraits of war and peace found permanent homes at the Corcoran Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, the de Young Museum in San
Francisco, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., and the
Society of Illustrators in Manhattan.
His stark oils and watercolors were among the works of combat art featured
last year on public television in the documentary "They Drew Fire." The combat art collections of all four armed services in Washington contain
examples of Mr. Benney's work. Thirteen of his creations are in the Navy Art
Collection at the Naval Historical Center, which put them online.
Born in Romania, Robert Benney was brought to New York as a toddler and
became a steadfast New Yorker. He studied at the Art Students League and,
later in life, taught at the Pratt Institute. At the age of 19, he started his own studio, selling illustrations to newspapers and magazines and eventually winning commissions for paintings from large corporations like AT&T, Standard Oil and Chrysler.
For many years, he sketched the stars of stage and screen. When the United States entered World War II, combat artists added another dimension to what the public at home gleaned from grainy newsreels and still photos. Most of the artists were members of the armed forces.
Mr. Benney became one of the accredited civilian correspondents who went into battle to paint and draw the reality as well as the raw emotions in what they witnessed at close quarters. They sent home the colors of gun smoke and flamethrowers and bloody bandages. Mr. Benney moved with the troops to cover land, sea and amphibious operations at Saipan and the Marianas. At the behest of Abbott Laboratories, he documented Army medical personnel in action in the South Pacific.
His representations of Army medicine were published in "Men Without Guns."
Other books to which he contributed were "Our Flying Navy," "The Illustrator
in America, 1880- 1980," "WWII" by James Jones, and Life magazine's "Picture
History of World War II."
He returned to military themes in 1954 when the Society of Illustrators
volunteered to cover Air Force operations in North Africa. He underwent some fast combat training to join the Marines in Vietnam for two months at Danang in 1968.
Mr. Benney is survived by his wife of 68 years, Celia, and a daughter, Alma
Berson of Boston.
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