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Ernst Benkert Sketchbooks and Notebooks Collection

Identifier: mss-703

Scope and Content Note

Materials include 127 sketchbooks of drawings Benkert made 1956 and 1992-2005; 69 notebooks of collected quotes and travel diaries (1961-1962, 1964-1966, 1969 and 1972-2002); a scrapbook created in 1963; one folder of photographs of paintings from 1964-1965; and a group of publications about Benkert and his work dating from 1963-2000. Other publications were removed and added to either the Rare Books collection or the Special Collections reference collection.


  • 1956-2005


Language of Materials



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Painter and art educator Ernst Benkert (1928-2010) was a founding member of the Anonima artists group. Benkert was born in Chicago, Illinois. He earned a degree in art history at Harvard and in 1957 started a teaching fellowship at Oberlin College, where he met Edwin Miesczkowski and Vermonter Francis Hewitt. In 1960 the three men founded the Anonima group in Cleveland. The Anonima group members applied the psychology of perception to paintings and drawings through a four-year plan that explored the effects of size change, overlap, brightness ratio, and light and shade. Although Anonima members were committed to working and exhibiting outside the commercial gallery system, they exhibited at museums and their own gallery throughout the 1960s and early 1970s before they disbanded in 1971.

Benkert has been labeled as a hard-edged constructivist and a minimalist. According to art critic Sarah Schmerler, "Benkert ever delights in and experiments with ways to fill a space with a mix of order and chaos." Much of his work, in black and white, is concerned with grid forms, although early and later works incorporate solid shapes. He received numerous fellowships and grants, including the New York State Creative Artists Public Service Award for drawing and the National Endowment for the Arts grant for drawing. Benkert's works are included in permanent collections at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont, the Gray Art Gallery at New York University, and museums in Israel and Denmark. Kentler International Drawing Space presented a retrospective of Benkert's drawings in 2006. Benkert taught studio art and art history at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York from 1966-1990.

Benkert's first connection to Vermont was his Oberlin colleague and Anonima partner, Francis Hewitt, an art professor at the University of Vermont (UVM) from 1970-1992. The Fleming Museum at the UVM organized an Anonima group retrospective in 1971. Benkert lived in Burlington, Vermont from 1985-1998 and taught several classes at the University of Vermont in 1975 and in the 1980s. Benkert's work was exhibited at the Francis Colburn Gallery at the University of Vermont (1987) and St. Michael's College (1994). In 2005, Benkert and University of Vermont professor emeritus Dan Higgins assembled Travel Books, Drawings, Notes and Photographs.


Ernst Benkert: Drawings 1959-2005. New York: Kentler International Drawing Space, 2006.

Houston, Joe. Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s. New York: Columbus Museum of Art and London: Merrell Publishers, 2007.

Raleigh, Henry P. "Anonima Group." Leonardo, vol. 2, no. 4 (Oct., 1969): 423-430.


4.4 Linear Feet (Four cartons, one box)


Painter and art educator Ernst Benkert (1928-2010) was a founding member of the Anonima artists group. Materials include 127 sketchbooks of drawings; 69 notebooks of collected quotes and travel diaries; a scrapbook; one folder of photographs of paintings; and a group of publications about Benkert and his work.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex

Related Materials

Another collection of Benkert's papers is located at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art:

Ernst Benkert papers, 1962-1971. 0.2 linear ft.

Material relating to Benkert's involvement with the artists' group Anonima. Included are clippings; writings and talks; exhibition proposals, catalogs; receipts for paintings; correspondence, including copies of letters sent; copy photographs of Anonima artists and exhibition installations; and a sound recording, "Anonima Panel Discussion, 4/2/64." Photocopies; originals in the possession of Ernst Benkert. Donated 1995.

Separated Materials

Added to Rare Books:

Anonima Vol. 1, no. 2 (1964)

LeWitt, Sol. Five Cubes on Twenty-Five Squares, 1977

LeWitt, Sol. Four Basic Kinds of Light and color, 1969

LeWitt, Sol. Four Basic Kinds of Straight Lines, 1969

LeWitt, Sol. Grids, 1975

LeWitt, Sol. Incompete Open Cubes, 1974

LeWitt, Sol. The Location of Lines, 1974

LeWitt, Sol. Modular Drawings, 1976

LeWitt, Sol. Six Wall Drawings, Arcs with Straight Lines, Not-Straight Lines and Broken Lines 1973

LeWitt, Sol. Wall Drawings at Sydney, 1977

Ruscha, Edward. Nine Swimming Pools, 1968

Train, Michael. Novel of the Twenties, 1972

Train, Michael. Story of Calvin Stoller, 1992

Vibrations Eleven, 1965

Williams, William Carlos. Grand Street, 1984

Added to Special Collections Reference books:

Benkert, Ernst. Ernst Benkert Travel Books 1994-2004

Benkert, Ernst. Drawings 1959-2005

Egbert, Donald Drew. Socialism and American Art, 1967

Guide to the Ernst Benkert Sketchbooks and Notebooks Collection mss.703
Prudence Doherty
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)