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Paintings From the Abbott Collection; Naval Aviation

Robert Benney

A native New Yorker, Benney had his first opportunity to devote full time to painting in 1936 and 1937, when he traveled to Haiti, the Dutch West Indies, and British and Dutch Guiana. He left New York soon after to live on the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada. His paintings have been widely exhibited, and invited to national art exhibitions, including the Corcoran Gallery and the Brooklyn Museum. Benny worked in New York prior to his travels, creating portraits of famous personalities, including Alfred Lunt, Claude Rains, Raymond Massey, John Barrymore, George Arliss and many others. Benny has been honored with exhibitions in the Museum of the City of New York and also the New York Public Library.


The Kill
Robert Benney #11
Oil on Canvas, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories
33 1/2h" x 49 3/4w"

In this dramatic presentation of a sea-sky battle, a Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber, bomb bay doors open, leaves death in its wake as it zooms away from a conclusive attack on a surfaced enemy submarine. All the vivid action in this scene has been repeated many times in actual combat by U.S. Naval airmen. Naval planes from escort aircraft carriers wreaked havoc on submarine wolf packs attacking Atlantic convoys, and they virtually blasted them from the ocean for many months. Bombers were fitted with depth charges, one of which is pictured exploding off the U-boat's beam here. In the attack, the plane's rear "stinger" gun spits death at gun crews attempting to ward off these lethal hawks from the sky.


Death of the Shoho
Robert Benney #4
Oil, 1942
Gift of Abbott Laboratories
34 3/4h" x 50 1/2w"

In May, 1942, the United States Navy won the first major naval engagement in history fought without surface ships exchanging a shot. It was the Battle of the Coral Sea, in which the might of Naval Aviation shattered and turned back the spearhead of a Japanese battle force menacing the United Nations' last Pacific stronghold of Australia. Here, aflame from stem to quarter, the Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho falls victim to the lethal combat tactics of Navy dive and torpedo bombers. The Shoho plowed herself under within a period of minutes after dive and torpedo squadrons broke her back.


The Battle of Midway
Robert Benney #7
Oil, circa, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories
36 1/2h" x 44 1/2w"

A month after striking in the Coral Sea, the Japanese launched an all-out assault against Midway Island in what was obviously intended as the first step of a grand attack upon Hawaii and the continental United States. The Navy was ready, and the heroic pilots from naval aircraft carriers inflicted a major sea defeat upon two great converging forces northwest of Midway. The enemy lost four aircraft carriers, at least two heavy cruisers, and a number of light cruisers, destroyers and transport--all by aerial attack. The artist here depicts a withering attack upon a Japanese cruiser by Navy dive bombers with fighter escort.


Naval Air Might at Santa Cruz
Robert Benney #6
Oil, circa, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories
36 3/4h" x 40w"

The victorious closing phases of the Solomons campaign in the Southwest Pacific found naval sea and air might taking heavy toll of frustrated and out maneuvered Japanese forces. In the Battle of Santa Cruz, fought in the early summer of 1943, combat pilots of the Navy and Marine Corps hammered enemy surface forces seeking to strengthen a slipping hold upon the southern Solomon Islands. Pictured here, Navy dive bombers blast a Japanese battleship in the foreground while shipmates attack other enemy ships in the distance. At Midway, naval pilots severely mauled and crippled at least two Japanese heavies.


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08 February 2001