Artists & Designers

Ward Bennett (1917-2003)

Bennett was reaching the apex of his varied career in fashion, architectural, interior, and product design in the 1960s when he was engaged by Tiffany & Co. to design tableware. A maverick and adventurer who left home and school at the age of thirteen, Bennett first worked in the fashion industry. In the late 1930s in Paris, the friendship he formed with the sculptor Constantin Brancusi influenced Bennett's reverence for "the pure line." Another role model was Le Corbusier: "From Corbu - whose great thing," said Bennett, "was the cube, the cone, the cylinder, the spiral - I learned that vocabulary in design is invariable." Returning to New York from Paris, he shared studio space for a time with the sculptor Louise Nevelson, made ceramic sculpture that was exhibited in the Whitney Annual of 1944, and studied painting with Hans Hofmann.

In 1946, the brass and silver jewelry that he had made in Mexico the previous year was included in the exhibition Modern Handmade Jewelry at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Bennett gradually became known for his minimalist and high-tech interiors and furniture design, and he was a prodigious designer of objects. Summing up his philosophy, Bennett said: "In life and design, try to pull it all down to a minimum." His tableware in silver for Tiffany embodied this ideal, as did his production-line, independently marketed bowl in silverplate of about 1980, created at a time when Bennett was considered "the father of minimalism" in design.

Excerpt from

Jewel Stern, Charles Veneble and Kevin Tucker, ed., Modernism in American Silver: 20th Century Design. (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2005), 332.