MINNS, Benjamin Edwin (1864-1937)

MINNS, Benjamin Edwin (1864-1937)
was born in the Hunter River district, New South Wales, in 1864. Having come to Sydney about 1884 and obtained a position as a law clerk, he studied under Lucien Henry at the Sydney technical college, and afterwards with A. J. Daplyn (q.v.). He obtained some work as an illustrator on the Illustrated Sydney News and in 1887 had a drawing accepted by the Bulletin, to which he continued to be a frequent contributor throughout his lifetime. He began painting in water-colours, and in 1891 his "Season of Mists" was purchased from the Royal Art Society exhibition by the national gallery at Sydney. Other examples by him were purchased by the national gallery in 1892 and 1894. In 1895 he married and went with his wife to London intending only a short stay. There he did much illustrative work in black and white for The Strand, Pearson's Magazine, Punch, and other periodicals. Other drawings were sent to Australia and appeared in the Bulletin. The illustrative work gave Minns a living, but he was more interested in his water-colours and did much work in England and in northern France. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the new salon, and with the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-colour. His pictures sold well until the outbreak of the European war brought prosperous times to an end. In 1915 he returned to Sydney and continued his connexion with the Bulletin. He had always been interested in the aborigines as subjects, and painted them frequently. In 1924 he was elected first president of the Australian Water Colour Institute which had a strong membership list. He continued working with undiminished powers, until his sudden death at Sydney on 21 February 1937. His wife survived him. Examples of his work are in the national galleries at Sydney and Melbourne.
Minns had a friendly personality and was very popular with his brother artists. He was an excellent illustrator and a very capable worker in water colours. His lighting and colour is sometimes a little theatrical, but his best work, often portraying fine cloud and open country scenes, places him among the better artists in Australia in this medium.
Art in Australia, 1917 and 1932; Sydney Morning Herald, 22 February 1937; W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art; The Bulletin, 24 February 1937.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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