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Ben Enwonwu

Date: 1917-1994, Nigeria
Ben Enwonwu (born Odinigwe Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu) was a pioneer African modernist, who was internationally acclaimed for both his paintings and sculptures though he was also a prolific writer and art critic. The son of an Igbo sculptor, Enwonwu studied with Kenneth C. Murray at Government Colleges, Ibadan and Umuahia from 1934-37. In 1944 he studied at Goldsmith College, London in 1944 before attending Ruskin College, Oxford, from 1944 to 1946, and graduating from the Slade School of Fine Arts with first-class honors in 1948. He went on to receive a Masters in Anthropology from the University of London in 1949. His artworks were included in one of the first exhibitions of modern African art – in 1937 – at Zwemmer Gallery, London, and were exhibited alongside prominent European modernists at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, in 1946. In 1949, Time magazine declared him Africa’s greatest artist. Enwonwu was awarded an MBE in 1955 by Queen Elizabeth II, and the following year she commissioned and sat for a portrait by the artist. Enwonwu was also made Officer of the National Order of the Republic of Senegal in 1971 and received the National Order of Merit by the Nigerian government for contributions to art and culture in 1980. His artworks can be found in prominent public and private collections in Africa, Europe, the United States, India, and Japan.
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