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Biography

KARL BENJAMIN (1925-2012) was born in Chicago, IL in 1925. Originally enrolling in Northwestern University, Benjamin left school to serve in the United States Navy during World War II. He resumed his studies in English literature, history, and philosophy at the University of Redlands in Redlands, CA in 1946 and received his Bachelor of Arts degree as well as California teaching credentials in 1949.

Later, Benjamin and his wife, Beverly Jean Paschke, moved to Claremont, CA, where he began teaching elementary school. Tasked with designing an art program for his students, Benjamin was intrigued by the way the colors of crayons interacted with one another. That experience sparked his interest in color theory, and from then on he pursued a career as an artist in addition to that of an educator. He began taking classes at Claremont Graduate School, where he received his Master of Arts degree in 1960.

His first solo exhibition was at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1954, followed by the seminal group show, “Four Abstract Classicists” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1959. The show featured work by Lorser Feitelson, John McLaughlin, and Frederick Hammersley, who celebrated crisp, “hard-edge” lines in their abstractions, unlike their East Coast counterparts, who favored more emotional lines of expressionism. This exhibition put the West Coast abstractionist movement on the map and served as a launching point for Benjamin’s artistic career.

Benjamin’s work can be found in numerous collections across the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA; Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; University of Redlands, Redlands, CA; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

Karl Benjamin died in Claremont, CA in 2012.