Jason Benjamin was born in 1971 in Melbourne. He was regarded as one of Australia’s best young artists, with sell-out exhibitions since 1999 and many high profile commissions.
One of Australia’s most collectable artists, his paintings are hung in important collections such as the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra and the homes of London and Hollywood identities.
In 1989, when he was 19, Jason Benjamin studied briefly at the Pratt Institute in New York but found the technical subjects stifling and abandoned his art studies to work in an art gallery. His art studies have included workshops, life drawing and art history studies where he refined his ability to render form and portray light.
For several years Jason Benjamin worked primarily as a chef and secretly painted at night after work, before finally deciding to paint full time after 1995.
Since then his work became highly sought after and Jason Benjamin enjoyed a wave of popularity with his paintings hung in homes such as the Hollywood actor, Kevin Spacey. A large work of his sold for $50,000 to a Melbourne collector in 2002 – a record price for a painting by a 31-year-old Australian artist.
A dedicated artist, Jason Benjamin was known to have spent up to 70 hours a week painting in his studio. He balanced this with his marriage and the demands of having two children. Jason says of the balance between work and play that “ … if you have a richer life – full of experience, communication, challenges – then you’ve got more to paint..”
He described his landscapes as “romanticized versions of reality” and dreaded being called a “photo-realist” painter, although he did use photographs as reference points for his paintings. Excellently drawn subjects, beautifully painted tones and rich, mood-inducing colours typify Benjamin’s canvases.
To research his pictures, Benjamin travelled into the bush with a camera, which he used like a sketchpad to record compositions and images. “I don’t go looking for a picture. But then things start washing over me. It’s like having a creative shower”, says Benjamin. After returning from these trips to remote areas, Benjamin looked at his photographs before beginning to paint.
Many of his landscapes explore the solitude and space of the outback using an extraordinary depth of field. Several of these large landscapes are imbued with a warm golden light. Of his influences, Jason Benjamin said that he was inspired by “emotionally charged” paintings by artists such as Monet, Velazquez, Turner, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church.
Jason was also passionate about music and would often play a recorded tune to his completed pieces. “If it works with that record, and looks like that record sounds, then it’s signed off. Ticked. Ready to go,” he said.
During his career, Jason Benjamin held over 45 exhibitions in Australia in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. His exhibitions abroad included shows in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Texas and London – all sell out shows. Over 4000 people viewed his 2002 Tokyo exhibition in five days.
Jason has also won more than 10 Australian art awards, including the 1999 Millennium Art Prize. He also painted work for submission to the Doug Moran Prize and the Archibald Prize. In 2005 he won the Packers Prize at the Archibald for his portrait of Australian actor Bill Hunter, which was entitled “Staring down the past”. This huge portrait is now hung in the Griffith University Art Collection.
Jason Benjamin’s work is represented in numerous collections, such as the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, the Ballarat Art Gallery in Victoria, the Shepparton Art Gallery in Victoria, Artbank, Bendigo Bank and Macquarie Bank.
Jason Benjamin passed away in February 2021.