John Bensusan-Butt (1911-1997)

John Bensusan-Butt (1911-1997)


John Bensusan-Butt lived at the Minories from 1915 to 1958 when it became the Minories Museum and Art Gallery. He was the son of Dr Ruth Bensusan-Butt, the earliest female doctor in Colchester who owned and lived at the Minories until she sold it to the Victor Batte-Lay Trust in 1956. Lucien Pissarro, the son of the French Impressionist Camille Pissarro (q.v.), was his uncle by marriage and he grew up with many of his works around him. Lucien Pissarro became his adviser and teacher throughout his artistic career. The two artists visited the same locations which included Cotignac in the Var, in France, a village discovered by Lucien’s wife Esther and the garden at the Minories where Lucien often stayed and commented how much he liked the lawn when it was scorched with the sun as it reminded him of a lion skin. John Bensusan-Butt was a member of Colchester Art Society from its foundation and was on the selection committee for many years. He was also the art critic for the Essex County Standard from 1950 to 1966. He had three exhibitions at the Minories in 1962, 1964 and 1975. He was also very much involved with the Borough and County Councils and as an historian published The House that Boggis Built, which tells the history of the Minories building.


This charming drawing by John Bensusan-Butt when he was 24 shows the Minories walled garden in the middle of winter with the snow covering its ground. An alley of trees leads to the Gothic Folly, a graded II listed summer house built in 1730 initially as a background for medieval plays.


  • Bensusan-Butt, John, The House that Boggis Built: A Social History of the Minories, Colchester, 1972
  • Bensusan-Butt, John, Recollections of Lucien Pissarro in his seventies, London, 1977
  • Bensusan-Butt, John, Camille Pissarro Exhibition of Lithographs and Etchings to Mark the 150th Anniversary of His Birth 17 November 1980-9 January 1981, Lumley Cazalet Ltd, London, 1977
  • Bensusan-Butt, John, On Naturalness in Art, a Lecture Based on the Sayings of Painters and Others, With a Postscript on Aesthetics and Index of Sources, published by John Bensusan-Butt, Colchester. 1981
  • Bensusan-Butt, John, Lucien Pissarro 1863-1944: 2 November to 3 December 1977, Anthony d’Offey, London, 1963


Evelyne Bell