Gershon Benjamin 1899–1985
A painter of portraits, landscapes, still lives, and the urban scene, Gershon Benjamin sustained an active career for over seven decades. Consistently dedicated to an artistic expression that was personal and honest, Benjamin was not commercially motivated and never wanted to compete with other artists for notoriety. He viewed his art as a means of expressing personal emotion; as he put it, "To feel is to know and to know is to feel; all my paintings represent that through color, line, and subject." As the introduction to the catalogue from his first solo show, held in 1934, aptly stated: his "theory embraces a precise expressionism" and commented that in his "nuanced studies you will encounter the evasive, evocative personality of the true searcher after the emotional 'mot juste.'"
Born in Romania in 1899, Benjamin began studying art when he was ten, while living in Canada. Leaving school when was fourteen, Benjamin became engaged as an apprentice at an advertising firm, where he learned engraving techniques. In 1923 Benjamin moved to New York, where he began a job working during the night shift in the New York Sun's art department and enrolled at the Art Students League. Among his teachers were Joseph Pennell and John Sloan. Soon after he arrived in New York, Benjamin began to associate with a circle of progressive-minded artists that included Milton Avery, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, and Arshile Gorky among others. Benjamin was especially close to Avery, and the two artists would retain a close and supportive friendship and artistic connection throughout their lives. In the early 1930s Benjamin along with Avery, Rothko, Gottlieb, and a number of other artists were promoted by the impresario and art critic, Robert Godsoe. In the 1940s, Benjamin settled in Free Acres, New Jersey where he worked freely until his death in 1985.
Benjamin is represented in many private collections, as well as in public collections including Berkeley Heights Public Library, New Jersey; Drew University, Madison, New Jersey; Griffiths Art Center, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kansas.