Lester W. Bentley (1908 - 1972)

Birth date: 1908 Death date: 1972  
Birth location: Two Rivers, Wisconsin Death location: Madison, Wisconsin  
Media: Graphic Art , Mural , Painting Web site:
Fair (file rating) - MWA artist file may include basic data, and additional newspaper articles, book references, exhibition information, and images that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

Represented in the permanent collection of the Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.


Lester Bentley
Born 1908 in Two Rivers, Wisconsin
Died 1972 in Madison, Wisconsin
Born in Two Rivers, on the edge of Lake Michigan, Lester Bentley decided he wanted to be an artist at the age of seven; his first exhibit was held in the neighboring city of Manitowoc when he was thirteen.

Working in a commercial art studio until he received a four-year, scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago,  he studied under Karl Buehr, Louis Ritman, and Boris Anisfeld from 1930-1934.  During the summers of 1933-1934 he taught art at Two Rivers Vocational School and completed six murals for Sacred Heart Church. In 1935 he worked for the WPA’s Federal Arts Project and in 1942 painted three small murals for the new De Pere (WI) Post Office.

During World War II, Chief Petty Officer Bentley produced recruitment posters of which SPARS–depicting women in U.S. Coast Guard attire–is his most famous. He also painted portraits of military officers until his discharge in 1946.  After the war he stayed in White Plains, New York where he met and married Constance Lolien. They eventually moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, building a home and a studio in 1953 while still maintaining a summer studio in Two Rivers.

Specializing in portraiture, Bently worked for Portraits Incorporated and also did private commissions.  Among his subjects were: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Cardinal Mooney, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William O. Douglas, Wisconsin Governors Oscar Rennebohm, Warren Knowels, Fred Zimmerman and Phillip La Follette, and University of Wisconsin president Conrad Elvehjem.  Bentley was also an accomplished lithographer and an art teacher.

Bentley’s artwork can be found in the permanent collections of Columbia University; the Neville Public Museum, Green Bay, WI; Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, WI; Elvehjem Museum of Art (now the Chazen), University of Wisconsin – Madison; and the West Bend Art Museum (now theMuseum of Wisconsin Art),  West Bend, WI.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

1937 Layton Art Gallery

Selected Group Exhibitions

1935 Neville Public Museum, Green Bay, Wisconsin
1936 University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Centennial Art Exhibition:  1836 – 1936 
Art Institute of Chicago, 47th Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture 
Memorial Union Gallery, UW-Madison, WI – 4th Annual Wisconsin Salon of Art 
Kansas City Art Institute.  Annual Midwestern Artist’s Exhibition. (also 1939) 
Art Institute of Chicago, 49th Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture 
Milwaukee Art Institute, Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors Annual Exhibition (also 1939) 
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Federal Arts Project Exhibition 
Memorial Union Gallery, UW-Madison, WI – 7th Annual Wisconsin Salon of Art 
Layton Art Gallery annual Exhibition, Milwaukee 
Art Institute of Chicago, 45th Annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity 
Art Institute of Chicago, 46th Annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity 
National Gallery, London 
Art Institute of Chicago, 53rd Annual Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture 
West Bend Art Museum, (now the Museum of Wisconsin Art), West Bend,  Wisconsin, Collecting the Art of Wisconsin: The Early Years (also Bergstrom - Mahler Museum, Neenah, Wisconsin) 

Wisconsin Affiliations

Wisconsin Art Organizations

No art organizations were found.

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