Biography - Legends in Life and Art: The Portrait Photography of Roloff Beny - Exhibitions - Library and Archives Canada
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Roloff Beny Introduction Portraits Collection Biography

Roloff Beny.  PA-192131 Wilfred Roy Beny was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on January 7, 1924. He later adopted the name Roloff, his mother's maiden name, and by 1950 was known as Roloff Beny. Upon graduation from Trinity College, University of Toronto, with Bachelor of Arts and Fine Arts degrees in 1945, he was accepted on a scholarship into the Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts program at the State University of Iowa. There he studied under the master engraver and printer Mauricio Lasansky, graduating in 1947.Following an Art History Fellowship at Columbia University and the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, Roloff Beny travelled through Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Britain and Germany with the American School of Classical Studies from 1948 to 1952. In 1953, he was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for printmaking and painting.

Roloff Beny achieved moderate success as an artist painting in the style of the Modernist Abstract School. During the 1940s and 1950s, he held 25 one-man exhibitions of his work, notably in Toronto, New York, Milan, Paris and Florence. However,it was as a photographer and a designer of lavishly detailed " coffee table books " that he established an international reputation. At the invitation of Sir Herbert Read, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, Beny staged his first major photographic exhibition in 1956. The publicity and acclaim which attended this showing eventually led him to conceive and produce his first book of photographs, The Thrones of Earth and Heaven, published in 1958 by Thames and Hudson. With the commercial and critical success of this volume, his artistic talent and vocation as a photographer and book designer were confirmed, and he subsequently developed a long and fruitful working relationship with Thames and Hudson. Altogether, sixteen photographic books were produced (four of which were published posthumously), nine of them by Thames and Hudson. Roloff Beny died in Rome in 1984.