Yale School of Art
1156 Chapel Street, POB 208339
New Haven, Connecticut, 06520-8339
(203) 432-2600

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dear Members of the Yale School of Art Community,

It is with sincere regret that I must inform you of the death of Richard Benson—a renowned authority on the history of photographic printing, an American photographer, an author, a former Yale University professor, and Dean of the Yale School of Art from 1996 to 2006. I hadn’t the opportunity to get to know my predecessor, although one does not need to look far to understand his immense contribution to the field of photography. Some years ago, The Guardian’s literary editor Liz Jobey aptly wrote:

“A long time ago I read a New Yorker profile of a master photographic printer called Richard Benson. It was titled, with that deliberate matter-of-factness that New Yorker titles invariably have, ‘A single person making a single thing’. This man was a unique craftsman, who great photographers and great institutions turned to when they wanted their pictures printed better than ever before. He had printed photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Lee Friedlander, as well as three volumes of the works of great French photographer Eugène Atget for the Museum of Modern Art. He had made an unsurpassed volume of prints for the collector Howard Gilman, whose collection is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. And in 1986 Benson had been awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant worth nearly quarter of a million dollars to carry on doing what he did so well.”

As a testimony to the series of lectures he had given at the Yale School of Art over a period of three decades, Richard Benson, more commonly known among friends as “Chip” co-curated with Peter Galassi an exhibition at New York’s MoMA in 2008 called “The Printed Picture.” The exhibition and accompanying book reflected Benson’s perspective on the evolution of the printed still image and traced the changing technology of making and distributing pictures from the Renaissance to the present. He was the recipient of numerous honors including two publication grants from the National Endowment of the Arts; two Guggenheim fellowships; the Rhode Island Governor’s Medal for the Arts; and a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. His work—located within the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum; New York’s MoMA; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri; and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven; among others.

Upon his retirement from Yale, the acclaimed photographer and Yale School of Art Professor Emeritus Tod Papageorge noted in his Tribute to Richard Benson, “He’s a special kind, the sort that reminds us that the words genius and genial share a common root. For who here doesn’t understand that Benson’s great good nature is at the core of his ability to accomplish so much in so many different ways?” Tod has written another tribute in memory of Chip, which you can read on the School of Art website by clicking here .

I expect there are so many who would wish to express their sincere condolences and also to reflect upon Chip Benson as a friend, teacher, and dean. We ask that you kindly send your thoughts to the School of Art so that we may gather these respects in celebration of Richard Benson and share them with our community in the coming weeks.

With respectful wishes,

Marta Kuzma Dean Yale School of Art New Haven

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