British wildlife artist Gordon Beningfield
British wildlife artist Gordon Beningfield (1936-1998) was born in London on 31st October 1936. During the Second World War his family moved to rural Hertfordshire, where he stayed for the rest of his life. Gordon began his career at the age of 15, working for Faithcraft in St. Albans. He learned to paint, decorate, sculpt, lay gold leaf and many other crafts related to furnishing and decoration of churches. By attending St. Albans College of Art on day release and evening classes, he pursued his interest in fine art. In the 1960s, he built a reputation as a wildlife artist and in 1974, a television program called “Look Stranger” brought his work to the attention of a larger audience. Gordon’s work first appeared in book “Beningfield’s Butterflies”, followed by “Beningfield’s Countryside” and many more.
His paintings were mainly watercolors but he sometimes used acrylic paint to highlight particular features. Gordon mostly used a cream paper and applied watercolor washes, very wet, very free and loose. Gradually the images were worked up, wash by wash. As one dried, he applied more watercolor tone over the top of it. Finally he used gouache in the areas that needed more emphasis. His subjects were always set beautifully in their natural habitat.
In Spring 1981, the Post Office issued a series of four butterfly stamps from his paintings. Later there was a series of British stamps featuring insects and he also designed stamps for other countries, including Micronesia, always concentrating on natural history themes.
In addition to painting, Gordon was a glass engraver and a brilliant sculptor, working on subjects such as his favorite Longhorn cattle, in his later career. He was an authority on shepherding, collecting relevant memorabilia and wrote a book “The Downland Shepherd”.
The wildlife artist, David Shepherd, wrote: “Gordon Beningfield was a modest man who shied away from publicity and the media. He just wanted to get on quietly with his painting, but there was nothing quiet about him when he came face to face with urgent conservation issues of the time. Above all he will be remembered for his love of nature. He was part of it and was surely one of “nature’s gentlemen”. He was fanatical in his dedication to do what he could to preserve this beautiful countryside of ours with it’s diversity of plants and birds, the beauty of which he portrayed with such a delicate touch in his lovely watercolors”.
His ability to put butterflies into a landscape that was of their scale was a joy to watch, and earned him a reputation as the foremost butterfly painter of the century. He was passionate about preserving and protecting the best of the English countryside and its wildlife and he was also a formidable debater; something that earned him the admiration of not only those in the conservation movement, but also among the general public and even among those he railed against whose opinions were diametrically opposed to his.
Gordon Beningfield married Betty and they had 2 daughters, Sally and Sarah.