Benet i Espuny, Josep



Born on the 1st of August 1920, in the town of Tortosa, Tarragona.
Son of Felipe (artisan carpenter, wood carver, gilder and imagery restorer) and Rosa. He studied drawing from an early age with local artists; first with Ricardo Cerveto and later with Cervetos's brother, Antonio, who had been a great collaborator of the sculptor Agustín Querol in his studio in Madrid and finally with the painter Fernando Arasa, with whom he used to go out to draw and paint landscapes.
The Spanish Civil War interrupted his studies to some extent, as he painted in Tortosa’s surrounding areas. He was called up to arms, while having to evacuate to the mountains near Tortosa where his family had already sought shelter after the continuous bombings of the city. Before turning eighteen he took part in the "Ebro Battle" crossing the river in the shadow of Miravet castle -a place he would paint so many times in years to come- coming out alive thanks, in part, to his drawings, which attract attention and help him get better established.
Once peace was restored, he drew and painted in his hometown for some time until he was introduced to Pérez Dolç, who advised him to register without delay at the Superior School of Fine Arts of "Saint Jordi" in Barcelona, where he was teaching at that time in the ‘Casa Llotja’. He registered in the 1942-1943 course.
He had as teachers Rigoberto Soler, Luis Muntané, Armando Miravalls, Santasusagna, Luis Monreal Tejada, José Amat and Enrique Monjo.
In 1945 he moved his studies to the Superior School of Fine Arts of "San Fernando" in Madrid where he finished drawing and etching. Among the teachers he had there were Mr. Manuel Benedito, Esteve Botey, Adsuara, Chicharro, Bermejo, Lafuente Ferrari.
His first achievements were the “Etching Prize” of his class, the “Pension del Paular” scholarship and the “Fundación Rodriguez Acosta” prize of Granada. In 1948, he won the valued “Great Landscape Prize” (scholarship positioned by public examination at the Spanish Academy in Rome) this scholarship, which was granted by the Spanish Department of External Affairs through the Superior School of Fine Arts of "San Fernando", was equivalent in merit to a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, had Benet not already had such studies. It is also equivalent to a National Second Prize.
During those four years in Rome he went all over Europe several times to study the work of the great masters, to draw and to paint. He travelled to France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Scandinavia and, of course, Italy, which he drew and painted from north to south.
He returned to Spain in 1953 and exhibited his works in Tortosa, Barcelona and Madrid. In 1954 he gained the position of lecturer at the Art School in Tortosa.
In 1955, he obtained by unanimity the first prize of the "Pensión Conde de Cartagena" of the Fine Arts Academy of "San Fernando" in Madrid. The scholarship allowed him to choose among many countries and he decided on New York.
During his journey across the Atlantic, his father died in Tortosa. He stayed in the Unites States for almost two years and he made the most of it; travelling, drawing and studying museums and art collections in New York, where he lived, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington D.C., Sant Louis, Detroit, Philadelphia, New Haven, as well as Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec, Montreal and Halifax in Canada.
There he contacted and visited two great American sculptors Anna H. Huntington in Bethel (Connecticut) and Malvina Hoffman in New York -the place where hisprevious teacher Enrique Monjo had sculpted some busts and the same place where Enrique Granados had composed a part of his “Goyescas”-.
At an exhibition in the Waldorf Astoria organised by Dr. Theodore Rousseau -Modern Art director of the Metropolitan Museum- he also met Dr James Johnson Sweeny -director of the Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum- both of whom show great interest in his drawings and etchings. Around the same time some of his etchings were acquired through the Metropolitan by Dr. A. Hyatt Mayor, President of the Hispanic Society of America.
In 1957 he travelled round Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela making a collection of drawings in Guayaquil, Quito, Popayan, Ipiales, Bucaramanga, Bogotá, etc. In Venezuela he set up a very important collection for the "Creole Petroleum Corporation" of colonial cities, industrial installations of Lake Maracaibo and the Castles of Guayana, Puerto Cabello, Cumaná, the islands of Margarita and "Toas" -the remains of Nueva Cádiz- (the island of las Perlas). He collaborated with other works for the magazine "El Farol", "Shell", "Reportajes" and others.
In 1958 he married a young Venezuelan girl in Barinitas (State of Barinas), at the foot of the Andes, and they had three daughters.
In the same year he started as a draughtsman in a division of the Venezuelan Ministry of Education, where he worked in screenprinting and illustrating educational books in the mornings, leaving time for his landscape art in the afternoons. He was Art teacher in the Ministerial night school for a period. He did drawings in the immense "Amacuro Delta" to illustrate the "book of the Gauraunos Indians" and others for "La Gran Sabana" and "Territorio Amazonas". He was teacher of drawing in the National Nursing School until he gave up all the economic security to dedicate himself fully to his pictorial art in his homeland, where he found that selective minority which every artist needs in order to live and progress in his art and work.
Back in Tortosa, he slowly readapted to the local landscape. In 1973 he returned to the Studio School of Art as teacher of Engraving, and immersed himself in the life of man and artist after much wandering and over 20 years out of Spain.
Since 1945, which saw his first exhibition in Tortosa, he has exhibited individually in Lérida, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, New York, Falun (Sweden), Caracas, Maracay and others. And in innumerable group exhibitions in Tortosa, Tarragona, Barcelona, Madrid, New York, Caracas, Barquisimeto, Maracaibo, Valencia (Venezuela), la Sènia, Ulldecona, San Carlos de la Rápita, Amposta, and international ones in Rome, Paris, Brera Gallery of Milan and the Bienal of Venice. In 1952 he obtained a third National Prize in the Madrid Fine Art exhibition for his oil painting "Trastévere".
Some of his works are property of museums in Barcelona, Madrid and New York, and others are scattered round the nearly all the countries he visited and others.
He was chosen as corresponding academic for Tortosa (Tarragona) by the Catalonian Royal Academy of Fine Arts "Sant Jordi" on 25th March 1981, having approved the proposal presented by the noted academics Francesc Bonastre Bertrán, Frederic Marès Deulovol and Eduard Ripoll Perelló.
He was chosen an honorary member of the Hispanic Society of America, New York, in 2001.
José Benet Espuny died in Tortosa, Tarragona, on the 13th of November 2010 surrounded by his family.


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