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Guide to the Robert L. Benney Research Collection
1933-1978, undated (bulk, 1942-1944)
 PR 250

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Kelly McAnnaney

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on January 18, 2023
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

Robert Benney, painter and illustrator, was born in 1904 in Romania. (It appears that he often listed his place of birth as New York City, but his vaccination record, found in this collection, as well as his obituary, printed in the New York Times, list his birthplace as Romania.) He was raised in New York City, and studied art at Cooper Union from 1921 to 1925 and the National Academy of Art from 1928 to 1932. At the age of nineteen, while still in art school, Benney opened his own studio creating illustrations for New York newspapers and magazines. In the late 1930s, he received commissions from several Hollywood studios, working to document theater productions and stage personalities.

Although a successful commercial illustrator and painter, Benney is most well known for his work as a war artist-correspondent during World War II. In 1943 he was hired by Abbott Laboratories to document the Naval Aviation Department's activities in the Pacific. He was commissioned again by Abbott in 1944 to illustrate the Army Medical Department in the South Pacific, where he covered the invasion of Saipan.

After WWII, Benney continued to work as an artist-correspondent. He traveled to North Africa in 1954 to illustrate the activities of the United States Air Force. Then in 1968, Benney again offered his skills as an artist, serving with the Marines and covering their activities in Vietnam.

Between his travels with the military, Benney taught art at Pratt Institute from 1949 to 1952 and at the Dutchess County College from 1964 to 1973. He also continued working as a commercial artist. He was commissioned by large corporations such as the American Sugar Refining Company, Standard Oil Company and Western Electric.

Robert Benney passed away in Boston in June 2001. His work can be found in the permanent collections of many important institutions including the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institute, both in Washington, D.C., the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in Dallas, TX and The Society of Illustrators in New York City, NY as well as in all branches of the Armed Services.