Benedict Chuka Enwonwu

Benedict Chuka Enwonwu

Benedict Chuka Enwonwu, Nigerian artist (born July 14, 1921, Onitsha, Nigeria—died Feb. 5, 1994, Lagos, Nigeria), gained international recognition in the 1950s and ’60s for figurative sculptures and paintings in which he combined classical Western training with traditional African elements.

Enwonwu first showed artistic promise while at Nigeria’s Government College. He won a scholarship to study in England, where he attended Goldsmith’s College, London (1944), Ruskin College, Oxford (1944-46), and the Slade College of Art in London (1946-48).

In 1946 he participated in a UN-sponsored international exhibition in Paris; two years later he held his first one-man show in London. Enwonwu was soon known as a major artist, and in 1957 Queen Elizabeth II posed for him for a controversial bronze sculpture that gra

ced the entrance to the Nigerian parliament building. In 1959 he returned to Nigeria as official art adviser to the federal government.

He quit public service in 1971 to serve as a visiting professor of African studies at Howard University, Washington, D.C., and as professor of fine arts at the University of Ife, Nigeria. He retired in 1975.

Enwonwu’s other notable works include the carved doors of the chapel for the Apostolic Delegation in Lagos and an elegant bronze figure of a woman donated by the Nigerian government to the UN headquarters in New York City in 1966. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1958 and received the Nigerian National Merit Award in 1980.