|Image courtesy of www.chilecollector.com|
José Moreno Benavente was born in Granada, Spain, on 7 July 1905. His father Manuel Moreno, who was a watchmaker and engraver, will undoubtedly have been the original inspiration for José. He went to the School of Arts and Crafts, and graduated in History of Art and Design. At this school he started his apprenticeship as an engraver. Subsequently José Moreno Benavente went to the National School of Graphic Arts in Madrid where her specialised further in engraving. There, he was the pupil of José Luis Sánchez Toda, one of the best engravers of his time.
After his training in Madrid, José Moreno Benavente went to Paris where he received further training for two more years, at the Institut de Gravure. Still on the move, José Moreno Benavente then went to London where he worked for a while at Waterlow & Sons, under the professional tutelage of the engraver John Augustus Charles Harrison. It was at Waterlow that José Moreno Benavente engraved his first philatelic product: the portrait of Bolivar on the 5 sucres value of the 1930 Independence Centenary set of Ecuador.
In 1931, José Moreno Benavente moved to Buenos Aires in Argentina where he met Joaquín Marcó, Head of the then newly founded 'Talleres de Especies Valoradas', which would later become the Chilean Mint 'Casa de Monedas de Chile'. Marcó immediately saw the artistic potential of José Moreno Benavente and hired him at the tender age of 26. José Moreno Benavente started working for the Casa de Moneda on 16 May 1931.
It would be the start of a great career of 44 years which helped rise the prestige of the printing firm to great heights. So much so that when the Belgian magazine L’Illustré ran a feature on the wonders of engraving in 1955, it highlighted three stamps from around the world, two of which were engraved by José Moreno Benavente. The first one was the 1944 issue celebrating the 80th anniversary of the International Red Cross, a single value depicting the Battle of Rancagua. The second stamp was a representation of the painting ‘Crossing the Andes’, part of a 1951 set marking the death centenary of General San Martin.
José Moreno Benavente worked himself up from engraver to chief engraver in 1953. He later became Head of the sub-department of engraving and design. José Moreno Benavente retired on 16 June 1975, at which time he had worked himself up to a position on the Technical Advisory Board.
José Moreno Benavente passed away in 1981, in Santiago. During the funeral service, Rolando Lizana Martínez, Head of Chile’s Casa de Moneda, held the following speech which sums up José Moreno Benavente’s personality rather well:
“José Moreno Benavente had a sullen appearance and it was not easy to become intimate with him. But those who had the honour to share his table every day for many years often saw glimpses of agility and spontaneity so characteristic of his Spanish roots. In discussion he would often be sharpwitted and even ironic, with a hint of morality added. Combined with his great cultural background he was a pleasure to listen to. To them it was also clear that his apparent solitude also was merely a first impression. José Moreno Benavente’s conversation was usually littered with names of writers, musicians, poets, sculptors, architects, journalists, businessmen, bankers and philatelists he had met and built up lasting friendships with.
Every month, José Moreno Benavente would offer a substantial donation to his religious order, asking them with an endearing smile to prepare for him for when the time would come.
With the passing of time, José Moreno Benavente felt his arm start to tremble and his eyesight would deteriorate as well. He therefore announced his retirement, promising us at the same time to show us some of his earlier work. This morning I went to look at those two albums again, compiled and bound by his own hands, every item dated and signed by himself. The albums are now in our museum. They are a constant reminder to us of how much Chile owes this famous engraver.”
Those two albums read like the anthology of José Moreno Benavente: the face of an African woman, probably made in Spain, an engraving of a man, dating from Paris, 1929, a Roman soldier engraved in London in 1930 and a portrait of the Chilean president Manuel Montt, dated Santiago September 20, 1931, and considered to have been his first work ever done in Chile.
José Moreno Benavente's database can be found HERE.