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Benn

BENN

BENN (Benzion Rabinovich ; 1905–1989), painter and graphic artist. Benn was born in Bialystok, Poland, and finished the Hebrew gymnasium there, where he later started his education in art at the private studios of local artists. He also studied at the Academy of Arts in Warsaw. He made his debut in 1927 with his first solo exhibition, shown first in Białystok and then in Warsaw. During this period, he designed the typography for collections of Yiddish poetry. In Białystok, his native town, he became a leading figure in local cultural life. He was among the founders of the modernist group "3f" ("Forma-Farba-Faktura"), where most of the members were Jewish artists. In 1928, he organized the first Autumn Salon for Białystok and Vilna artists. In 1926–29, he designed the scenery for the performances of several Yiddish theater companies in Białystok. In 1929, the Białystok municipality awarded him a scholarship for a trip to Paris. On the eve of his departure, Benn arranged a "farewell" solo exhibition that was later shown in Warsaw with the assistance of the Jewish Society for Encouragement of Artists. In Paris, he studied with Fernand Leger. From 1932, Benn regularly exhibited in Paris art salons. His works were highly praised by critics and won public recognition. Six one-man shows in the 1930s at private art galleries in Paris are yet another indication of his success. During this period, he was also active in book design. During the German occupation of France, Benn went into hiding. However, not long before the end of the occupation, he was finally seized by the Gestapo and deported to the Drancy concentration camp. By sheer luck, he not only survived but also escaped further deportation to Auschwitz. In 1945, Benn returned to Paris. In the post-war years, having rejected the cubist and expressionistic techniques that had so strongly attracted him in the 1920s and 1930s, Benn crystallized his individual manner based on an organic combination of "metaphysical painting" techniques and surrealism. From the 1950s through the 1970s, while mainly active in painting, he also engaged in book design and, among other works in this field, executed a series of illustrations for The Song of Songs (1950, 1974) and other books of the Bible (1948, 1954, 1971), as well as for an edition of "Ḥad Gadya" (1956). In these years, he had numerous oneman shows in France and other West European countries as well as in Canada and Israel.

bibliography:

P. Learsin, "Ben-Tsiyon Rabinovitsh," in: Illustrierte Voch (Warsaw), 16, 98 (1928), 14; C. Aronson, Scenes et visages de Montparnasse (1963), 561–65; S. Roi, Benn (Yid., 1967); Jubilé du peintre Benn (Paris, 1975); J. Malinowski. Malarstwo i rzeźba Żydow Polskich w xix i xx wieku (2000), 398.

[Hillel Kazovsky (2nd ed.)]

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