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Artist Val Bennett was born in London in 1923 and educated at Winchester College. From a young age he was drawn to nature and the outdoors and studied natural history and painting. Despite this keen interest he chose not to pursue it further and instead followed a more conventional career path. After a course at de Havillands he joined a company that manufactured equipment for aircraft and he spent the following 23 years in the aviation industry, working his way up to Sales Director, a role which saw him travel widely.
Bennett made his first wildfowl models in 1950, experimenting with different techniques in the evenings after work. His early examples were produced in lead alloy which he poured into plaster of Paris moulds to create little ducks no more than a couple of inches in size. Each was exquisitely and realistically hand painted, the careful result of long hours of detailed study. These sold quickly to a London shop and soon after he was commissioned to make a set of birds for the Festival of Britain Exhibition in 1951. However it wasn’t until 1973 that the birds would become a full time pursuit for Bennett when he left his job to pursue his artistic passion.
He immediately found an appreciative audience for his work, now mainly made from cold cast bronze, and in 1976 he exhibited for the first time at the British Game Fair. He continued to attend this annual fair along with similar themed fairs in France, Holland and America. He exported his work all over the world as clients far and wide fell for the charm and quality of his beautiful birds. In the late 70s he created some pieces for Cartier which were marked ‘Made for Cartier’ and signed by the artist.
In 1980 he changed his production methods and began using foundry cast bronze which, whilst a more expensive material and process, ensured a strength to even the thinnest beak or tail and gave a quality of finish that Bennett felt his discerning clients would appreciate. By this time he was making 31 different wildfowl species, all to a similar scale, but in 1983 he decided to create a new larger series of models which would be nearer to half life-size. He chose the Mallard, Pintail, Wigeon and Green-Winged Teal ducks and made a limited edition of 75 pairs for the American market and 50 pairs for European clients with the slight differences in the American and European breeds accurately portrayed in the detailed enamel painting. He would later create unpainted versions with a patinated finish as well as the beautiful sterling silver models we are proud to offer.
A keen watercolour and gouache painter, Bennett was married with three children and lived for many years in the beautiful wilds of the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales. He passed away in 2013.