Artist and Teacher Karl Benjamin Has Died


Karl Benjamin, the painter known for his brilliantly colored geometric works, died July 26. He was 86.

In the exhibition catalog from Louis Stern Fine Arts’s 2007 survey of Benjamin’s work, art critic Dave Hickey wrote, “I can think of no other artist whose paintings exude the joy and pleasure of being an artist with more intensity than Karl Benjamin’s, nor any other artist whose long teaching careers has left no blemish of cynicism on his practice.”

Benjamin was born in 1925 in Chicago. In 1943, he enrolled at Northwestern University; however, he quickly dropped out to join the U.S. Navy. After completing his service in 1946, he moved to California to continue his studies. In 1949, after receiving his bachelor’s degree, he married Beverly Jean Paschke and began his elementary school teaching career.

The artist taught for 20 years in public elementary schools in San Bernardino County, Chino and Claremont, and through this experience became interested in the impact of different colors on one another.

Benjamin gained international recognition 1959 when he was included in a traveling exhibition, “Four Abstract Classicists,” alongside Lorser Feitelson, John McLaughlin and Frederick Hammersley. Benjamin showed at the Whitney, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many other venues.

From 1979 to 1994, Benjamin taught as a professor at Pomona College, where he was also artist in residence.