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Roloff Beny, (1924–1984) was a
Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these connections exist and are collectively the source of ...
photographer photographer stand. A photographer (the Greek language, Greek φῶς (''phos''), meaning "light", and γραφή (''graphê''), meaning "drawing, writing", together meaning "drawing with light") is a person who makes photographs. Duties and typ ...
who spent the better part of his life in Rome and on his photographic travels throughout the world. Born Wilfred Roy Beny in
Medicine Hat, Alberta Medicine Hat is a city in southeast Alberta, Canada. It is located along the South Saskatchewan River. It is approximately east of Lethbridge and southeast of Calgary. This city and the adjacent Town of Redcliff to the northwest are within ...
, he later took as his first name ''Roloff'', his mother's maiden name.


Life

Beny was born in
Medicine Hat, Alberta Medicine Hat is a city in southeast Alberta, Canada. It is located along the South Saskatchewan River. It is approximately east of Lethbridge and southeast of Calgary. This city and the adjacent Town of Redcliff to the northwest are within ...
on January 7, 1924. Beny studied at the
University of Toronto The University of Toronto (U of T or UToronto) is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, located on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of ...
and took art classes at the
Banff Centre for the Arts Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, formerly known as The Banff Centre (and previously The Banff Centre for Continuing Education), located in Banff, Alberta, was established in 1933 as the Banff School of Drama. It was granted full autonomy as a ...
and the
University of Iowa The University of Iowa (UI, U of I, UIowa, or simply Iowa) is a public research university in Iowa City, Iowa. Founded in 1847, it is the oldest and the second-largest university in the state. The University of Iowa is organized into 12 colleges ...
. At Iowa, he studied with master printmaker
Mauricio Lasansky Mauricio Leib Lasansky (October 12, 1914 – April 2, 2012) was an Argentine artist and educator known both for his advanced techniques in intaglio printmaking and for a series of 33 pencil drawings from the 1960s titled "The Nazi Drawings." La ...
, who gave him one of his prints. He maintained a photographic studio in
Lethbridge, Alberta Lethbridge () is a city in the province of Alberta, Canada. With a recorded population of 101,482 in its 2019 municipal census, Lethbridge became the fourth Alberta city to surpass 100,000 people. The nearby Canadian Rocky Mountains contribute ...
throughout his life and used the studio while visiting his relatives.


Development of fame

Beny had a considerable reputation and exhibition record as the maker of progressive painting, drawing and printmaking in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was recognized as one of the leading abstract artists of his day with works of the period exhibited and collected at that time by the
Metropolitan Museum of Art The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, colloquially "the Met", is the largest art museum in the United States. Its permanent collection contains over 2 million works, divided among 17 curatorial departments. The main building at 1000 F ...

Metropolitan Museum of Art
, the
Museum of Modern Art The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It plays a major role in developing and collecting modern art, and is often identified as one of the l ...
, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the National Gallery of Canada, among others. His work in painting, drawing and prints is discussed in ''Roloff Beny Visual Journeys''. Canada, as Beny remarked, had "no temples two thousand years old, no paths worn hard by passionate travelers."Roloff Beny, ''To Every Thing There Is a Season''. The Viking Press, New York, 1967. But the photographer soon found his way to those paths and temples in the course of "insatiable wanderings in Europe and Asia," and, above all, around the perimeter of the Mediterranean. Beny was in early days a protégé of Peggy Guggenheim and Herbert Read. The circle of friends around him—actors, artists, collectors, writers—included Laurence Olivier, Stephen Spender, Rose Macaulay, Bernard Berenson, Jean Cocteau, Henry Moore, and other makers of art and literature. His books have been published in America, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iran, and Japan.


Career in its peak; life's end

Beny was obsessed with the beauty of the world. He has been called "a poetic photographer" and he was a passionate aesthete. His photographic journeys were recorded in a series of large-scale volumes which appeared over the years. Beny's work is in the collections of the
Museum of Modern Art The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It plays a major role in developing and collecting modern art, and is often identified as one of the l ...
, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Yale University Art Gallery. "I see majestic ruins even in the architecture of the skies," he wrote in the Preface to one of his splendid and marvelous books. Roloff Beny died March 16, 1984, of a heart attack, aged 60, in his Roman studio overlooking the Tiber. His last four volumes appeared posthumously. Beny donated his collections of international, Canadian, and his own art, as well as his papers, to the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.


Roloff Beny's books

*1958 – ''The Thrones of Earth and Heaven'', H.N. Abrams *1962 – ''A Time of Gods'', Studio, *1964 – ''Interprets in Photographs: Pleasure of Ruins'', Holt, Rinehart and Winston, *1967 – ''To Every Thing There is a Season, Roloff Beny in Canada'', Thames and Hudson *1967 – ''Japan in Color'', McGraw-Hill *1969 – ''India'', Roloff Beny and Aubrey Menen, Thames & Hudson Ltd, *1970 – ''Island Ceylon'', Studio, *1974 – ''Roloff Beny in Italy'', McClelland and Stewart, *1974 – ''Persia, Bridge of Turquoise'', Roloff Beny, Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Mitchell Crites, New York Graphic Society, *1978 – ''Iran, Elements of Destiny'', Everest House, *1981 – ''The Churches of Rome'', Roloff Beny and Peter Gunn, Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, *1981 – ''Odyssey: Mirror on the Mediterranean'', Harpercollins, *1983 – ''The Gods of Greece'', Roloff Beny and Arianna Stassinopoulos, Harry N. Abrams *1984 – ''Rajasthan, Land of Kings'', McClelland & Stewart, (Beny died while this book was in publication.) *1985 – ''The Romance of Architecture'', H.N. Abrams, (posthumous) *1985 – ''Iceland'', McClelland & Stewart, (posthumous) *1994 – ''Visual Journeys'', Roloff Beny, Mitchell Crites and Michael Crites, Thames & Hudson, (posthumous) *1995 – ''People, Legends in Life and Art'', Roloff Beny, Mitchell Crites and Jack McClelland, Thames & Hudson, (posthumous)


Awards

His books won awards throughout a long career, beginning with ''The Thrones of Earth and Heaven'' in 1958. ''To Every Thing There is a Season: Roloff Beny in Canada'' is a study of his native land. In 1972 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.


References


External links


Library and Archives Canada: Legends in Life and Art: The Portrait Photography of Roloff Beny

Roloff Beny, Lethbridge College Buchanan Art Collection
{{DEFAULTSORT:Beny, Roloff 1924 births 1984 deaths University of Toronto alumni Trinity College (Canada) alumni Canadian photographers Members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts Officers of the Order of Canada People from Medicine Hat