Paul Benney

United Kingdom 1959

Monochrome Painting, Neo-expressionism

Paul Benney
Paul Benney
United Kingdom
April 13, 2015
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

Paul Benney is a British artist who explores the interplay of light with elements such as fire and water in his work. Born in Chelsea in 1959, Benney spent the majority of his childhood in Beenham, West Berkshire.

Grandson of Sallis Benney

Benney’s grandfather was Sallis Benney, the early 20th century British impressionist, an artist who in 1914, at the age of 18 found himself, by default, Principal of Hull School of Art. Paul Benney’ father, Gerald Benney wasn’t artist, but a notable silversmith who created gold and silver flatware and jewellery for private and public collections around the world including for the British Royal family, so Paul went through an early training in silver and goldsmithing.

Neo-Expressionist Group

Paul Benney worked as a carpenter and musician before traveling to New York in 1982 where he began his career as a self-taught painter. A key member of the Neo-Expressionist group of the early 80’s in New York’s East Village, Benney became known for his monochromatic paintings, sculptures and mixed media works. Stygian themes of mortality, absence and remembrance have preoccupied him throughout his career. Artist uses a variety of techniques in his paintings like oil on resin, wood, metal and feathers.

State Portrait for Israel

Portraiture played no part in his New York years and it was not until his return to Britain in 1997 that he took on his first portrait commission. Among the country’s leading portrait artists, he has painted many prominent cultural and political figures. One of Benney’s most known works is his group portrait of the Supreme Court of Israel which has become known as a State Portrait for Israel. In 2003 Benney was commissioned by the Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery to paint Jack Dellal in recognition of his support of the gallery. He has painted the portraits of John Paul Getty III, The Marquis of Bath, Lord Weidenfeld, Baroness Amos, Lord Rothschild, Sir Mick Jagger, as well as the portrait of Dorian Grey in the feature film A Portrait of Dorian Grey in 2008. He has exhibited in eight BP Portrait Award Exhibitions and twice won the BP Visitors’ Choice Award in 1996 and 1997 and received a Commendation for the portrait My Daughters in 1999.

Paul Benney – State Portrait for Israel (Supreme Court of Israel), 1994, photo credits – artist

Night Paintings

The Night Paintings series of works reveal Benney’s deep interest in the intangible world we see beyond the mirror. His allegorical paintings are inspired by a long tradition of artists including Goya, Rembrandt and Velázquez, whose art, whether allegorical, religious or historical, flourished alongside their works of portraiture, the one informing, shaping and redefining the other. In the Night Paintings series, Benney paints figures which, while their meanings can never quite be fixed, embody some sense of our spiritual quest. The “night” as such isn’t necessarily represented in every painting, but instead the paintings explore what happens during the night: what can be seen, what can be felt and what can be envisaged. For this reason, most of the subjects that are representations of ghosts, burning moors, death, criminals or sunrise.

Exhibition in Deadhouse

In 2010 Benney was invited to be a resident artist at Somerset House. There he was the first artist that held an exhibition of paintings in Deadhouse, a series of hidden, atmospheric chambers which contain the gravestones of 17th century palace retainers beneath The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court. The atmospheric setting lends itself to the subjects of the paintings, which include shamanistic presences and mysterious hinterlands. It complemented the atmosphere that the works gave off.

Paul Benney - Burning Moor, 2005, in Somerset House's Deadhouse, 2012, from the "Night paintings" series, photo credits - Smiths Magazine
Paul Benney – Burning Moor, 2005, in Somerset House’s Deadhouse, 2012, from the Night Paintings series, photo credits – Smiths Magazine


Paul Benney’s work can be found within collections at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Portrait Gallery, London, and the National Gallery, Canberra, Australia, The Eli Broad Foundation, Los Angeles, and The Rothschild Foundation. Among his private commissions, Benney has produced work for the Marquis of Bath, Lord Rothschild, Paul Getty III, the Sitwell family, the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover and Mick Jagger.

Paul Benney currently lives and works in United Kingdom.

Studio Contact:

YearName of the exhibitionMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2015Stations of the CrossMarylebone Parish Church, LondonGroup
2014Speaking in TonguesLeicester Cathedral, Leicester, UKSolo
2014Grand OpeningSerena Morton Gallery, LondonGroup
2014Rainbow Trust Charity AuctionFrieze Art Fair, LondonGroup
2014MetaphysicalMimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea, MilanGroup
2014BP Portrait AwardsNational Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
2014Face Time: An Exhibition for The Art RoomThe Mall Galleries, LondonGroup
2014Out of our HeadsShoreditch Town Hall, LondonGroup
2013A History of the Old Colony RoomEngland & Co, LondonGroup
2013RitualEngland & Co, LondonGroup
2012Night PaintingsSomerset House, LondonSolo
2012The Bones of my HandViktor Wynd Fine Art IncGroup
2010Paul BenneyChelsea Arts Club, LondonSolo
2010BP Portrait AwardsNational Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
2008BP Portrait AwardsNational Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
2007Paul BenneyGallery S, Benney, South Kensington, LondonSolo
2001Retrospective of 20 years work: Just LookingThe Mall Galleries, LondonSolo
2000Baby 2000Christie’s Exhibition & Auction, LondonGroup
2000BP Portrait AwardsNational Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
1999BP Portrait AwardsNational Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
1998BP Portrait AwardsNational Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
1998The Face of Contemporary ArtSix Chapel Row Gallery, Bath, EnglandGroup
1997BP Portrait Awards (Winner – BP Visitors’ Choice)National Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
1996BP Portrait Awards (Winner – BP Visitors’ Choice)National Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
1995State Portrait for Israel: Group Portrait with Associated SketchesNational Portrait Gallery, LondonSolo
1995Paul BenneyLong And Ryle, LondonSolo
1995UnknownBirch Conran Gallery, LondonGroup
1994Paul BenneyBirch Conran Gallery, LondonSolo
1994BP Portrait AwardsNational Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
1993HeadsThe Royal Museum And Art Gallery, Canterbury, EnglandGroup
1993FlowersLamont Gallery, LondonGroup
1992Paul BenneyNigel Greenwood Gallery, LondonSolo
1991Works on PaperNigel Greenwood Gallery, LondonGroup
1990Two person exhibitionThe Alpha Gallery, Boston, MAGroup
1990Persistence of VisionTibor De Nagy, NY Group
1989The Jousting MeadowRebecca Hossack Gallery, LondonSolo
1989Heretic HealersGalleria Berini, BarcelonaSolo
1989Paul BenneyP.P.O.W. Gallery, NY Solo
1989Women of the PressLjubljana Museum, YugoslaviaGroup
1988UnknownPutter Pense Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1988New Vision of the ApocalypseMuseum Of Art, Rhode Island School Of Design, Providence, RIGroup
1988Porcelain: Past Forms, Present TenseFashion Institute Of Technology, NY Group
1988British Painters, 20Th Century WingMetropolitan Museum Of Art, NY Group
1987Paul BenneyP.P.O.W. Gallery, NY Solo
1987Art Against AidsTunnel, NY Group
1987Twenty Under ThirtySabbath Art Gallery, Wunsch Art’S Centre, NY Group
1987Prints, Commission, GrantZimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJGroup
1987Three Person ExhibitionUrban Institute For Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MIGroup
1987Art Against AidsGracie Mansion Gallery, NY Group
1987UnknownArtes Magnus Porcelain Project, Limoges, FranceGroup
1986Paul BenneyP.P.O.W. Gallery, NY Solo
1986Art of the East VillageWilliams Center For The Arts, Lafayette College, Easton, PAGroup
1986Romanticism and Cynicism in Contemporary ArtHaggerty Museum Of Art, Milwaukee, WIGroup
1986Art of the East VillageMorris Center, Easton, PAGroup
1986UnknownP.P.O.W. Gallery, NYGroup
1986ForumInternationale Kunstmessse, Zurich, GermanyGroup
1986Red TAPE ShowE,M Donohue Gallery, NY Group
1986MythsGreathouse Gallery, NY Group
1985Paul BenneyP.P.O.W. Gallery, NY Solo
1985Survey of East Village ArtMori Gallery, Sydney, AustraliaGroup
198557th Street between A and DHolly Solomon Gallery, NY Group
1985A Brave New World – A New GenerationUdstillingsbygningen, CopenhagenGroup
1985RecommendationsKamikaze Club, NYGroup
1985New York – SeattleCenter Of Contemporary Art, Seattle, WAGroup
1985Smart Art55 Mercer Street, NY Group
1985Out of ContextPiccadilly GalleryGroup
1985East Village at the CentreSadie Broffman Center, Montreal, CanadaGroup
1985New York, New ArtVorpol Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
1985East Village Situation 85Museum Of Modern Art, Cantanzaro, ItalyGroup
1985UnknownAndre Zarre Gallery, NYGroup
1985Out of the Ooo CloudBlum Art Institute, NY Group
1985Hard Cold FactsB Side Gallery, NY Group
1985UnknownGracie Mansion Gallery, NY Group
1984Paul BenneyP.P.O.W. Gallery, NY Solo
1984Inside the East VillageGalerie Andre Emmerich, ZurichGroup
1984The New PortraitInstitute For Art And Urban Resources (P.S.1,) Long Island City, NY Group
1984Neo YorkUniversity Art Museum Santa Barbara, Santa BarbaraGroup
1984New Galleries of the Lower East SideArtists Space, NY Group
1984LimboP.S.1, Long Island, NY Group
1984RomanticismNew Math Gallery, NY Group
1984IndigestionP.P.O.W. Gallery, NY Group
1984East Village ExhibitionZellermeyer Gallery, BerlinGroup
1984Twilight ZoneEast 7Th Street Gallery, NY Group
1984CollaborationLimbo Lounge, NY Group
1983UnknownP.P.O.W. Gallery, NYGroup
1983British Art New DirectionsPuck Building, NY Group