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 Benedict Chukwikadibia Enwonwu  (1921 - 1994)

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Lived/Active: Nigeria      Known for: paintings

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Ad Code: 2
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Seven wooden sculptures commissioned by the Daily Mirror in 1960
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Ben Enwonwu is recognised as one of the great names of African modern art. He studied at Ruskin School of Art and the Slade. Enwonwu's engagement with contemporary Western training and academia was as unequivocal as his connection to the traditional art of his ancestors which had had such an impact on the course of modern art. In Africa Dances Enwonwu explores one of his favourite, central themes – dance and ceremony. “Like culture, Art changes its form with the times. It is setting the clock back to expect that the art form of Africa today must resemble that of yesterday otherwise the former will not reflect the African image. African art has always, even long before western influence, continued to evolve through change and adaptation to new circumstances. And in like manner, the African view of art has followed the trend of cultural change up to the modern times.” 1950, Ben Enwonwu. After schooling in Nigeria Enwonwu attended Ruskin School of Art in Oxford and went on to the Slade School of Fine Art University London, 1944 – 1947, he also attended Goldsmith College. He graduated from Slade with a first Class Honours Diploma in Sculpture. Later enrolling at the University of London post graduate studies in Anthropology. In 1948 he graduated from the University of London and became a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists. In 1948 Enwonwu returned to Nigeria and worked as an Artist Adviser to the Federal Government. In 1956 he was commissioned by the British Government to do a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. A copy of the bronze sculpture stands at the parliament Building in Lagos, while the original is in the Queens Art Collection. In 1954 he received an (OBE) Distinguished Order of the British Empire. He was commissioned by the Federal Government to produce a sculpture that would symbolize the new Nigerian nation for the National Museum, the resulting was the sculpture ‘Anyanwu’ (Sunshine in Igbo) remains one of his most visible works. He held several positions in the world of Art both in Nigeria and abroad, 1966 – 1968 he became a fellow of the University of Lagos, he was appointed Art supervisor to the federal government a position he held till 1971. In 1975 he was awarded one of the highest national honours, Officer of the National Order of the Republic. In 1977 he was appointed Art Consultant to the International Secretariat, second world Black and African Festival of Art and Culture. Amongst his most celebrated commission were The Drummer Boy produced for the Nigeria Telecommunications Headquarters in Lagos and Sangbo (Yoruba God of thunder) for the Nigerian Electric Board. In 1985 a major retrospective exhibition was organized by Royal Society of Arts at the Mall Galleries, London, which later moved to Lagos in 1987, he held his last major exhibition at the National Museum in Lagos in 1990.
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