|Acquisition Number: 80.41
Medium: Oil on board
Size: 24" x 20"
Credit: Gift of Helen D. Shein
Didactic: Gerrit Beneker was born on January 26, 1882, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His interest in art, expressed at an early age, seems to have been encouraged by his father, Bartel Beneker, who had given up hopes of an artistic career of his own when he immigrated to America from Holland.
Gerrit muddled through high school, excelling in sports, and drawing pictures of his teachers and fellow students. In 1901 he enrolled in the Chicago Art Institute.
In 1919, Beneker and James Foster, President of Hydraulic Pressed Steel Company teemed up and probably for the first time in either the history of art or the history of industry, a business firm put an artist on its executive staff and pay-roll, built him a studio right beside the tall chimney of the power-house, and gave him carte blanche to paint and write as he saw fit. This had been Beneker’s dream ever since he began his art career.
Beneker described Homer White of the Canton Plant in 1919: “He heats slabs in ovens in the rolling mill and wears a stubble beard to protect his face from the intense heat of the furnaces. He looks like a ‘radical’, but look into his sincere eyes and you will find that he is a ‘constructive radical,’ the kind that makes him a leader of men because he has won their confidence and respect. These were the same constructive radicals who during an industrial downturn following WWI, came to their management and said “Boss, you go out and get the work, and we will roll it for you at any price you can pay, and make a profit.”