The late Nigerian Arts Virtuoso, Ben Enwonwu, whose works continue to rake in millions and million of dollars. Ben Enwonwu is the Nigerian Arts Virtuoso whose works continue to garner tons and tons of dollars even after his demise.
The saying ‘An apple does not fall far from its tree best exemplifies the late Nigerian Arts Virtuoso, Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu, a Nigerian artist from Onitsha, Anambra State, who followed well, or even surpassed the strides of his father who was a reputable traditional sculptor.
Born a twin on July 14, 1917, the road to becoming a famous artist for Ben, began when as a student of Government College, Ibadan in 1934,his dexterity in arts was spotted and encouraged by an Englishman Kenneth C. Murray,who was an education officer in charge of art education in the colonial civil service and later director of antiquities.
The late Nigerian Arts Virtuoso, Enwonwu went on to become one of the iconic artists from the continent of Africa, with his works garnering accolades and prizes the world over, with exhibitions at the prestigious Zwemmer Gallery in London, the Glasgow Empire Exhibition in 1938, with awards including prize money, medal among others.
Enwonwu whose works are now in the art collection of the International Business Machine Corporation in San Francisco, was awarded a Shell Petroleum scholarship to study in the United Kingdom in 1944. In England, he enrolled at the Goldsmith College of Art, Lewisham, London and later the Ruskin and Slade Ashmolean, Oxford, where he studied Fine Art, Aesthetics, History of (Western) Art and Anthropology, graduating with first-class honors in sculpture. He continued his studies in London at the University College and the London School of Economics where he completed postgraduate work in social anthropology.
On the invitation of Sir Julian Huxley then director of UNESCO in 1946, Enwonwu represented Africa at the International Exhibition of Modern Art held at the Musee D’Art Moderne in Paris.
At an auction in London, one of his paintings, ‘Christine’created in 1971, sold for $1.4 million after a family who owned it realised its importance and goggled it.
Christine Elizabeth Davis, the subject and inspiration of the painting was born in New York and she was the stepdaughter of a renowned Ghanaian lawyer. According to auction house Sotheby’s, she moved back to Ghana to live with her stepfather in the early ’20s. She would soon relocate to Lagos in 1969 with her husband and developed a close friendship with the artist.
The artwork is a product of a friendship between Christine, her husband, and Enwonwu, as well as her innate ability to stay composed and immobile for as long as the latter required for his loose brushstrokes and vibrant oil to capture her transient beauty.
The portrayal of her long-neck, glowing skin, curved lips, and delicate smile are the testament of the warmth and grace of the sitter.
According to the London auction house, the family that owned it were unaware of the significance of the painting or the importance of the artist, until a chance “googling” of the signature led them to Sotheby’s free Online Estimate Platform.”
The artwork ‘Christine’ precedes the artist’s 1974 work of Ife royal Princess Adetutu “Tutu” Ademiluyi, regarded as the African Mona Lisa, which sold in 2018 for $1.6 million.
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