Charlotte Benton obituary


Charlotte Benton, who has died of a coronary heart assault aged 80, was one in all a handful of pioneers who helped form design historical past as a discrete self-discipline within the Seventies and 80s, initially in collaboration along with her husband, Tim.

From 1972 the Bentons labored collectively on the primary artwork historical past course for the just lately based Open College. The module A305 Historical past of Structure and Design 1890-1939 was launched in 1975 and ran till 1982, and was described by the journal Design Points as “the one most necessary work of design historical past to have emerged in Britain”.

The emphasis was on major sources, aided by 24 freely out there late-night BBC Two programmes filmed throughout Europe and complemented by 32 radio programmes, slide strips and course booklets, many written by Charlotte and Tim, in addition to two collections of historic texts, many translated for the primary time, and each printed in 1975. Type and Perform: A Supply E-book for the Historical past of Structure and Design 1890-1939 was edited by Tim and Charlotte with the architect Dennis Sharp; and Paperwork: A Assortment of Supply Materials on the Fashionable Motion was edited by Charlotte alone.

Anybody might watch the TV programmes or tune in to the radio broadcasts, and the affect of A305 was worldwide, with the course featured as a show of pictures and paperwork on the 1976 Venice Biennale. The following founding of the Design Historical past Society in 1977 and of the Twentieth Century Society in 1979 (initially the Thirties Society) was no coincidence.

A305, whether or not consumed by an OU pupil or unofficially, supplied instruments to look critically and intelligently at trendy structure and design. Tim fronted lots of the broadcasts. Charlotte was much less publicly seen, though she contributed radio programmes on futurist and Soviet structure, on the Congrès Internationaux d’Structure Moderne and on Nineteen Twenties French design. When it comes to employment, nevertheless, her husband was an Open College lecturer, later professor, whereas she was a analysis assistant whose contract was not renewed after 1976.

Though she had taught in schools of artwork within the Nineteen Sixties and 70s, her shyness and perfectionism made educating a fraught expertise, and after finishing her work on A305 she largely devoted herself to analysis, writing and modifying. The Bentons’ admired workforce work continued to be productive, and he or she and Tim accrued an intensive and spectacular residence library, firstly in Stockwell, London, and subsequently in Cambridge, available to researchers. For Thirties: British Artwork and Design Earlier than the Battle, held in 1979 on the Hayward Gallery, Charlotte and Tim supplied an inclusive view of the structure of the interval. In 1987 she contributed an essay on Le Corbusier’s furnishings and suggested on the Le Corbusier exhibition on the Hayward. Steadily, nevertheless, Charlotte collaborated much less with Tim, though they labored collectively on the favored 2003 V&A exhibition Artwork Deco.

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Research supplies from the Open College A305 Historical past of Structure and Design 1890-1939 course, on show on the Centre Canadien d’Structure, Montreal. {Photograph}: Tim Benton

Charlotte was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Her mom, Margaret (nee Wade), was a nurse and her father, Michael Jefferson, a neurologist who from 1949 was a marketing consultant at Queen Elizabeth hospital, Birmingham, and senior medical lecturer and tutor in neurology on the College of Birmingham.

Charlotte boarded at Cheltenham Girls’ School and took an undergraduate diploma on the Courtauld Institute in London the place she was taught by Alan Bowness and John Golding. She and Tim met whereas she was an undergraduate on the Courtauld, and so they married in 1968. To her mother and father’ gentle remorse, Charlotte, alongside along with her two brothers, broke a household custom of medical service initiated by her grandfather who had been a surgeon on the Anglo-Russian hospital in St Petersburg. Arguably, nevertheless, she introduced a scientific acuity to her analysis and publications.

She produced much less for a brief interval after the delivery of her son, Daniel, in 1980, however her contribution total continued to be immense, usually executed professional bono. She was on the unique editorial board of the Journal of Design Historical past, was a distinguished contributor and served as manufacturing editor from the journal’s inception in 1988, retiring in 1998. On this function she arrange the journal’s template and its editorial course of and persuaded Oxford College Press to behave as writer. She was largely liable for the excessive normal of its articles, making it an internationally admired publication.

Amongst a wealth of writing, in 1995 her guide and exhibition held on the RIBA Heinz Gallery, A Totally different World: Émigré Architects in Britain 1928-1958, turned an indispensable work of documentation, going past Walter Gropius and Ernő Goldfinger to look at much less well-known émigré figures resembling Erwin Anton Gutkind, Gunther Hoffstead and Arthur Korn.

Having pioneered analysis into Charlotte Perriand, Charlotte performed a sequence of interviews with the designer, then in her 90s, for a Design Museum exhibition held in 1996. She subsequently wrote a exceptional article on Perriand’s recreation in bamboo of the well-known Le Corbusier/Perriand/ Jeanneret chaise longue whereas the designer was in Japan. From 1999 till 2004 Charlotte labored productively with the artwork historian Penelope Curtis on the groundbreaking convention Figuration/Abstraction: Methods for Public Sculpture in Europe, 1945-1968 on the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, which checked out public sculpture in jap Europe throughout the chilly battle. Benton edited the 2004 guide of the identical identify.

Discovered, charming and humorous, she was a formidable and beneficiant scholar, naturally cross-disciplinary, who laid the foundations for an inclusive design historical past. In 2015 she helped organise the convention 40 Years On: The Area of Design Historical past, on the OU in Milton Keynes, which examined the legacy of A305. Characteristically, she selected to not be a speaker.

Charlotte and Tim divorced in 2003. She is survived by Dan, and by her two brothers, Andrew and Simon.


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