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2022 April – John Howard Benson (1901-1956) – Faculty Member Works

In conjunction with the exhibit in the Portsmouth Abbey School McEvoy Gallery at the McGuire Fine Arts Center,  a new library display has been created.

John Howard Benson was a member of the Portsmouth Abbey School faculty during the 1950s. While here he included some of his woodcuts into the school publications and we have copies of his printed works in the school and monastery libraries. I have put these on a small display in the main room. His obituary was noted in the February 29, 1956 issue of the school newspaper, The Beaverboard as follows;

John Benson Dies

John Howard Benson, 54, died of a heart attack last Thursday, the 23rd of February. He was a member of the Faculty of Portsmouth for many years, and was internationally known as a calligrapher and sculptor. Mr. Benson, ‘who was considered the foremost authority on lettering in the country,’ designed and gave Portsmouth its inspiring High Altar and Crucifix, which incidentally was once placed on exhibition at the Fogg Museum, Harvard, for its excellence. The Priory is also indebted to him for the candle sticks on the altar, the statue of Our Lady and the metal work around her.

Thomas and John Benson, two of his three sons, attended Priory.

A solemn High Mass of Requiem for Mr. Benson was celebrated by Fathers Bede, Ached, and Dorn Thomas last Saturday at St. Joseph’s Church. Portsmouth has lost a true friend and a great man. We wish to extend our deep-felt sympathy to his wife and family.

The school has his works; The Elements of Lettering by John Howard Benson and Arthur Graham Carey (McGraw Hill, 1950); The First Writing Book by John Howard Benson (Yale, 1955) donated by Roberta Stevens in 2006 and Herbs and the Earth, by Henry Beston (Woodcuts by John Howard Benson), New edition, (Godine, 1990); and a biography,  John Howard Benson & His Work 1901-1956  by Philip Hofer published by The Typophiles (Typophile chap books ; 31.)  1957.    

The depiction above is from Herbs and the Earth and the depiction below is from the December 1930 edition of The Portsmouth Raven.                              (RLS)