Reared in a family of artists, writers, professors, and university presidents, Long was as precocious in his artistic ability as he was eager to apply it. At 18, Long followed his father's footsteps to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Creative Writing under the guidance of his friend and advisor Reynolds Price. Upon completing his University coursework at the insistence of his advisor Long moved to New York to immerse himself in the study of fine art.
In NYC, Long became a member of the Art Students League of New York, studying under the guidance of such notable artists as Robert Beverly Hale and Frank Mason. Then, in 1969, Long preempted the draft by enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served just over two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine Corps Combat Officer; during his last tour he served as Commander of the Combat Art Team, and much of his work from that period is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C.
Upon leaving Vietnam, Long traveled to Florence, Italy, to apprentice himself to internationally renowned Maestro Pietro Annigoni. Long committed himself to Annigoni for almost eight years. His apprenticeship culminated in 1976, when he was awarded the prestigious Leonardo da Vinci International Art Award.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ben Long and some of his students painted wet plaster frescoes on the walls of the two historic Ashe County, North Carolina churches that form Holy Communion Episcopal Parish. Later, in 1986, he would produce a three-part fresco for St. Peter's Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 1984, Long moved to France where, for the next 14 years, he split time between Paris and the Gard region of Provence. By the time of the move, Long had completed several frescoes in Italy - including a joint fresco with Annigoni and the only work by a non-Italian at the Abbey of Montecassino. These works set the stage for several major fresco projects in the U.S. (13 to this day) including a dome and the largest secular fresco in the United States.
There have been in depth documentaries produced about two of his frescoes, these include Chapel of the Prodigal (completed with James Daniel, Roger Nelson, and Charles Kapsner) and Shadow into light, both of which were produced by A New Light Productions, Inc. The videos depict the painting of Return of the Prodigal in Montreat, North Carolina and Suffer the Little Children in Crossnore, NC respectively.
In addition to his prolific fresco work, Long has had works in the Royal Academy as well as the Royal Portrait Society (London, UK). He has exhibited in Florence, London, Paris, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and is represented in major collections throughout Europe and the Americas. He has lived and worked in Europe for over thirty years and now divides his time between Europe and the United States.
In 2001, Long was awarded the coveted Arthur Ross Award for Excellence in the Classical Tradition (Classical America, New York, New York) by Philippe de Montebello (current and longest-serving Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Mr. de Montebello has referred to Ben Long as one of the greatest draftsmen of the 20th Century.
In 2002, Ben Long received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2005, the Art Renewal Center added Ben Long to its Trademarked list of "Living Masters". Reynolds Price memorialized the pair's friendship by publishing a poem entitled "Ben Long's Drawing of Me".
- The Fremantle Collection, Florence, Italy
- The Josefowitz Collection, Lausanne, Switzerland
- The Getty Collection, San Francisco, California
- The Christie Miller Collection, London, England
- The Thane of Cawdor Collection, Scotland
- The Annigoni Collection, Florence, Italy
- The Sullivan Collection: Paris, France; Miami, Florida; New York, New York
- The Stillman Collection, Armenia, New York
- The Dalton Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina
- The Governor's Mansion Portrait Collection, Raleigh, North Carolina
- The McColl Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- The Wells Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Bank of America Corporate Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina
- The Mint Museum of Art Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina
- United States Marine Corps Historical Museum, Washington, District of Columbia
Selected Portrait Commissions
- Gov. Jim Hunt of N.C. (Governor’s Mansion Official Portrait)
- Gordon Getty and sons
- Hugh McColl (Former President & CEO of Bank of America)
- Mr. and Mrs. C.D. Spangler (Portrait for the Harvard Business School Spangler Student Center)
- Musician Boz Scaggs and wife
- Philanthropist Chauncey Stillman
- Author and Poet Reynolds Price
- Author Danielle Steele and family
Selected Fresco Sites
- Basilica of the Montecassino Abbey, Chapel of St. John the Baptist, Montecassino, Italy
- Buriano, Station of the Cross, Florence, Italy
- Santa Maria del Buon Consiglio (w/ Annigoni), Ponte Buggionese, Italy
- Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi, Monte Catini Terme, Italy
- Self-Portrait Fresco, Private Collection, Paris, France
- Wethersfield Estate (Collaboration with Maestro Pietro Annigoni), Armenia, New York
- Bank of America Corporate Center (largest secular fresco in U.S.), Charlotte, North Carolina
- TransAmerica Dome, Charlotte, North Carolina
- City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium, Morganton, North Carolina
- First Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Montreat Chapel of the Prodigal, Montreat, North Carolina
- Statesville Civic Center, Statesville, North Carolina
- Law Enforcement Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
- St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Wilkesboro, North Carolina
- St. Peter's Catholic Church, Charlotte, North Carolina (fresco destroyed in 2002 due to dynamite blast vibrations in a construction area near the church).