Artist Profile

Leo Vernon Bensemann

Born 1912, Died 1986

Leo Bensemann lived in Canterbury for 55 years. He was born in Takaka and attended Nelson College. After leaving school in 1929, he followed his friend Lawrence Baigent to Christchurch and in 1934 met Denis Glover who, with John Drew, had established the Caxton Press Club.

It was Glover's enthusiasm for Bensemann's graphic work which led to the suggestion of a set of drawings for publication; and, as typographer at Caxton Press, he was involved in all technical aspects of book production with Glover. As an illustrator, he produced vivid images with a strong element of fantasy. Bensemann also assisted Charles Brasch with the publication of "Landfall" from its inception in March 1947 until 1978.

In 1937 Bensemann moved to one of Sydney Lough Thompson's studios where he stayed until 1943. The studio was one of three : Archibald in one, Rita Angus in the second and Bensemann and Baigent sharing the third - these studios became the unofficial headquarters of The Group.

Bensemann painted landscape throughout his life, drawing upon scenes associated with Canterbury : the expanses of plain rolling foothills and the distant view of the Alps. From time to time he also used the rocky outcrops of the Takaka Hills remembered from his childhood. His landscapes were dominated by edge and silhouette, and a sharp light; full of remembered and seen elements, dreamlike stillness and poster-like clarity.

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