Benn grew up in Bialystok where his grandfather was a rabbi and his father worked as an architect. In 1917, Benn, whose nickname was already “the painter,” spent two years in Diatvolo at his father’s sister’s home. He taught drawing to boys his age. Back in Bialystok in 1919, Benn attended an art studio (1922-1924) and decided to establish a painting academy inside his family home. Between 1926 and 1930, the artist devoted himself to theater sets. His first personal exhibition took place in his hometown in 1927.
In 1928, Benn left for Warsaw, enrolled in a studio course and exhibited his work at the Warsaw Exhibition. That same year, he was involved in organizing the Bialystok Winter Exhibition. In 1929, his hometown awarded him a scholarship to study in Paris for three years. He met his future wife Guerra in 1938 and acquired French nationality. In 1930, in Paris, Benn attended the Fernand Léger Modern Academy. His work was based on geometric figures and remained linked to reality.
In 1939, he stayed in Couture, in the Ain department. Mobilized in Brittany and then discharged from service in 1939, he took refuge in Rennes, and kept trying to send his paintings to the Salon d’Automne. At that time, he started sculpting. In 1941, Benn and his wife were interned at the Beaune-la-Rolande camp. They were released thanks to the intervention of Professor Marcel Brule and Lo Duca. Benn went into hiding for twenty-six months during which time he was protected by Jean Paulhan. During the war, he produced small paintings depicting Biblical themes. After the Liberation, Benn returned to Paris where he stayed permanently.
Nieszawer & Princ
"Artistes juifs de l’Ecole de Paris 1905-1939"
Editons Somogy 2015