Living in Berkhamsted for 60 years, half of the time as Head of Art at Berkhamsted School, Brian Bennett has established himself as one of the best-known living painters of the Chilterns.
To celebrate the year of his 90th birthday, 90 of his oil paintings capturing the essence of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be displayed at the School’s Chadwick Art and Design Centre.
Brian’s connection with Berkhamsted School spans over six decades. From his home, a stone’s throw away from Kings Campus and Chesham Road Playing Fields, where he refereed and helped train the School’s rugby teams, Brian continues to take great interest in school life.
Combining the seemingly contrasting skills of an oil painter and rugby player, Brian grew up with a love of sport and art. His versatile nature, along with his talent and skills, helped him secure his first teaching job at Plymouth College after graduating from Oxford University. Later he transferred to Berkhamsted, where he inspired many young artists to achieve their potential.
By exploring every inch of his favourite spots of the Chilterns, Brian has produced a spectacular series of paintings. Until recently, every painting was created on location. He would manage to haul a heavy box of paints, a canvas, an easel and a full day’s stock of refreshments to some of the most remote areas of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire along the escarpment of Chiltern Hills.
At any age, 90 or 19, oil painting is exhausting, complex and requires an enormous amount of concentration. It is a great testament to Brian’s longevity, strength and passion for painting he is remarkably still maintaining the same standard of work.
The challenge painters face in the Chilterns is the ever-changing light conditions. Battling against the weather and the rapidly changing skies, one moment the scene will be beautifully lit up, the next a great shadow will descend on the whole landscape. Brian enjoys the variation of the English climate, with each season having its own appeal. His work includes snow-filled landscapes from the depths of winter, to the bright and colourful scenes of spring and summer.
While Brian is well known locally, and possibly the most acclaimed artist to have ever taught at Berkhamsted School, his list of national accolades speaks for itself:
- President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters 1987 to 1995.
- Governor of the Federation of British Artists 1990 to 1996.
- Winner of the Stanley Grimm prize 1979, 1985 and 1992 at the R.O.I. annual exhibitions
- Produced work for private collections in USA, Japan, Europe and the UK including HRH Prince Edward, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester and the Duchess of York.
A visit to Brian’s home studio revealed the creative process behind his famous work.
He said “I’ve always wanted to paint. I love exploring, and I look to find something that is meaningful and stimulating. I aim to reveal the world through painting and invite viewers to discover the poetry of the landscape.
“Curiously, I love painting grass, especially with the wild flowers growing in its midst, which usually means lying in the long grass to create an interesting composition. I also love painting water and the lovely Chiltern panoramas.
“I have developed my own style and technique from painting with a personally designed knife. It’s very flattering and reassuring when people go into a room and say ‘that’s a Brian Bennett’.”
Brian’s exhibition in the Chadwick Centre will be open to the public from Monday 28th August to Saturday 2nd September. There will be around 90 oil paintings for sale, the vast majority depicting the stunning Chiltern landscapes.
People will often ask Brian how long it takes to create his paintings. And his answer will always be the same: “X hours and 60 odd years.”
His life experience, the decades he has spent exploring the Chilterns, the way he has refined and maintained his artistic skills at 90 years old are presented through his entire collection. Each and every piece reveals the world through the eyes of Brian Bennett at 90.
Brian’s exhibition in the Chadwick Centre will be open to the public from Monday 28th August until Saturday 2nd September. There will be around 90 oil paintings for sale, most depicting the stunning Chiltern landscape.