Karl Benjamin was a famed abstract painter, noted Claremonter

The longtime Claremont resident and renowned abstract painter, died at home on Thursday, July 26 of congestive heart failure at the age of 86. He was surrounded by family.

Noted for his vibrant geometric works, Mr. Benjamin is widely acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of the Hard Edge painting movement.

Not only did Mr. Benjamin make an impact in the art world, he also sought to instill his artistic knowledge and passion in others. Always visible in Claremont, he served as professor and artist-in-residence at Pomona College and Claremont Graduate University from 1979 to 1994. Upon his retirement, Pomona College honored the professor emeritus with a retrospective.

Born in Chicago, Mr. Benjamin relocated to California after serving in the US Navy during World War II. He took up art shortly before moving to Claremont in 1952, and rose to national fame as part of a groundbreaking 1959 exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), “Four Abstract Classicists: Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin.”

Works by Mr. Benjamin, who was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Grant for Visual Arts in 1983 and 1989, rest in the public collections of an array of museums, including LACMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Oakland Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Seattle Art Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

An apt description of Mr. Benjamin’s work is featured in a Thursday, July 26 article in the Los Angeles Times by Suzanne Muchnic. “Working with a full palette and a vocabulary of stripes, squares, triangles, circles, rings and irregular shapes, he created tightly balanced compositions that seem to shimmer, vibrate or explode in space.” 

His family remembers him as a warm and giving person as well as a brilliant artist.

“He had an amazing, full life creating beautiful things, and he taught many people how to love,” said his daughter, Beth Marie Benjamin.

A full account of Mr. Benjamin’s life will appear  in an upcoming edition of the COURIER.

—Sarah Torribio



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