One of the works that will be displayed in the exhibition Making their Mark: Illinois Women Artists 1940-1960 opening October 17, 2015 at Peoria Riverfront Museum.
Enella Benedict was born on December 21, 1858. As a young adult, she studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in New York.1 Benedict, like many prestigious women of her time, traveled to Paris to receive additional training in art at the prestigious Academie Julian. Although she received excellent study overall from the famous French academy of art, Benedict was isolated as a female student, was required to paid higher fees, and received less rigorous instruction.2 In 1892, Enella Benedict became the founder and director of the Art School within the Hull-House. Benedict supported the program for over forty years and was one of the longest live-in residents of the Hull-House settlement, second longest to Jane Addams herself. Benedict's contributions to the settlement included teaching drawing, painting, clay modeling, and the responsibility to bring in new teachers and artists-in-residence.3 Enella Benedict was also a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago during this same time period.
Benedict's paintings and drawings were influenced by realism. She adopted this style into her urban setting, painting many of the individuals around her--such as the residents of the Hull-House and the peasant neighbors. She would also paint seascapes and rural landscapes and has been described as a great draughtswoman.4 It has been said, "she portrayed both public and private space, taken from everyday life."5 Of modern art, Benedict has commented 'I don't understand it but I see no reason to poke fun at it."6 This describes why her paintings come from a very traditional standpoint. In 1893, Benedict's work was accepted in the World's Columbian Exposition in the designated Woman's Building,7 a great honor for any women artist talented enough to be accepted.
As a gift for Benedict's life long devotion to the Hull-house, in 1938 the "Hull-House opened a new permanent art gallery on its main floor with a retrospective exhibition of Benedict's paintings. Named in her honor, the Benedict Gallery was lost with the demolition of the Hull-House complex in the mid-1960's."8 Enella Benedict died April 6, 1942.