Leo Bensemann

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1912, d.1986

Death and the Woodcutter

  • Presented by Mr F. A. Shurrock, 1961
  • Wood engraving
  • 650 x 550mm
  • 69/455
  • c. 1940

Leo Bensemann was one of the few New Zealand artists to produce wood engravings during the 20th century. He was deeply interested in literary subjects, which he freely interpreted in his unique, sometimes bizarre, manner.

Here, Bensemann has based his image on Aesop’s most famous fable, but he has set it in a Canterbury landscape. The foothills and mountains are reminiscent of the Southern Alps and the cloud formations are characteristic of the region’s hot, dry föhn wind, known as the Nor’wester.

Bensemann moved with his family to Nelson in 1920, then to Christchurch in 1929 where he worked for an advertising agency. He attended evening classes at the Canterbury College School of Art between 1932 and 1936. In 1934 Bensemann met poet and publisher Denis Glover and became involved with the Caxton Press, with which he remained associated until his retirement in 1978. Bensemann was a regular exhibitor with The Group from 1938.

Read an article from The Press about this work.