This exhibition has finished.
Cost: Free of Charge
An exhibition of highlights from The Pearson Silver Collection devoted to post-World War II British designer silver.
This exhibition features a run of 66 boxes created by Benney including the first that was made in 1952, to one of his last in 2000. Many of the pieces are being shown in public for the first time.
Born at Hull in 1930, Adrian Gerald Sallis Benney started his artistic training at Brighton College of Art in 1946 where his father was Principal. Dunstan Pruden, who was a member of the semi-religious Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic at Ditchling on the South Downs, taught him silversmithing while he studied at Brighton. Pruden also gave the young Benney hands-on experience at the Guild. Following military service, Benney proceeded to the Royal College of Art (RCA) where he studied silversmithing under Professor Robert Goodden.
In 1952 his four-piece tea service and tray won him the Prince of Wales Scholarship. The early 1960s was the turning point for Benney’s silver business. In 1961, while raising the bowl of a goblet, he accidentally took a hammer from the rack with a damaged head. After a few blows with the hammer what should have been a smooth surface had a series of patterns imposed on the bowl. While many silversmiths would have cursed such an error, Gerald found the result pleasing and experimented further. The rest is history: he ‘invented’ silver with a textured surface, or ‘Benney Bark Finish’ as it became known in the trade. While textured silver was regarded at first as a novelty, it certainly appealed to the public. It boosted sales and although others copied it mercilessly, it remained an integral part of Benney’s repertoire and indeed, it remains so to this day.
In addition to the discovery of texturing, 1961 was important for Gerald for another reason. Coventry Cathedral approached him for what at the time was regarded as the largest ecclesiastical commission of the century. The 1960s were booming years for Benney’s workshop. During the decade his work appeared at 32 major exhibitions throughout the world. In 1964 he moved his family home from a Mayfair townhouse to Beenham House, a 52-room mansion near Reading. During 1969 he had his first one-man show. In 1973 a major retrospective of his work was staged at Goldsmiths’ Hall. The exhibition included the Benney silver and enamel box lent by the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip that had been commissioned by members of the royal family for the occasion of the couple’s Silver Wedding Anniversary the previous year.
In 1980 the Prince of Wales granted Gerald a Royal Warrant, making his total four - the first British craftsman to hold so many.
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This exhibition has finished.
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