Gerrit Beneker

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Gerrit Beneker at his easel in 1915

Gerrit Albertus Beneker (January 26, 1882 – October 23, 1934) was an American painter and illustrator best known for his paintings of industrial scenes and for his poster work in World War I.


Beneker was born on January 26, 1882 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the son of Bartel Albertus Beneker, who had immigrated from Serooskerke in the Netherlands, and Pauline Catherine Steketee.[1][2][3] He first studied at the Chicago Art Institute, where his teachers included John Vanderpoel and Frederick Richardson; later he transferred to the Art Students League in New York.[4] In September 1907 he married Flora Judd Van Vranken from Marcellus, New York, with whom he would have four children.[3]

After working as an illustrator in New York, he became a student of Charles Webster Hawthorne in 1912 at the Cape Cod School of Art;[5] although his work brought about frequent moves, he returned to the area in the summers and in 1920 bought a summer house in Truro, Massachusetts.[6]

"Sure! We'll finish the job"

In July 1918, Beneker was hired, under the title of "Expert Aid, Navy Department", to create posters and illustrations for the war effort.[7] It was in this period that he painted his most familiar work, "Sure We'll Finish the Job", which sold over three million copies.[8] Later he spent four years painting workers of the Hydraulic Pressed Steel Company in Cleveland, Ohio as part of a labor-management relations improvement project;[8] similar projects were carried out at the General Electric plant in Schenectady, New York and at the Rohm and Haas plant in Philadelphia.[6]

He died on 23 October 1934 in Truro.[3]

Beneker was one of the founders of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.[9] His papers are held by the Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution.[1]


Beneker's output was prodigious, with some five hundred works in oil produced over a thirty-year period, exclusive of his many illustrations.[6] The latter appeared in over eighty publications including Scientific American and Harper's Weekly.[6] He was also noted for his Ivory Soap advertisements.[6] Most of his work consists of portraits, landscapes, and genre paintings of industrial and manual labor, and it is for the last that he is best known.[6]

Beneker's industrial paintings are optimistic and uplift the common laborer. James Guimond lists him, along with such other artists as Alfred Stieglitz, Joseph Stella, and Margaret Bourke-White, as a participant in "a popular genre of industrial art that was a kind of sooty romanticism."[10] His industrial paintings toured the country, and Beneker was in great demand as a lecturer.[8]

While his portraiture and industrial works are conservatively realistic, his landscapes are noted for their impressionism.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Gerrit A. Beneker papers, 1869–1972". Archives of American Art. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  2. ^ Philpott, A. J. (November 1919). "The Brush That Draws Them Together". The Red Cross Magazine: 18–22, 66, 68. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  3. ^ a b c "Gerrit A Beneker 1881-1934 - Ancestry".
  4. ^ Levy, Florence Nightingale, ed. (1913). "Beneker, Gerrit A.". American Art Annual. American Federation of Arts. 10: 215.
  5. ^ Bakker, James R. "Charles Webster Hawthorne Founds the Cape Cod School of Art". Traditional Fine Arts Organization. Archived from the original on 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Biography for Gerrit Beneker". AskArt. Retrieved 2011-11-18.
  7. ^ "Work and Fight". The Outlook. 120 (7): 204. October 9, 1918. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  8. ^ a b c "Gerrit Albertus Beneker". Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  9. ^ "PAAM's Historic Archives and Scholarly Resources". Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Archived from the original on 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  10. ^ Guimond, James (1991). American Photography and the American Dream. UNC Press. p. 86. Retrieved 2011-11-18.
  11. ^ McQuaid, Cate (2003-08-29). "Museum's exhibits celebrate Provincetown's artistic heritage". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2011-11-18.

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