Biographical Information:

Dates: 1935-
Dates in Ridgefield: lived on Gilbert Street

illustrator, painter

Literally millions of people have seen hundreds of paintings by Harry Bennett, but most viewers would not know his name. Mr. Bennett, a Ridgefielder most of his life, has been one of the most prolific paperback book cover artists in the United States and probably the leading painter of covers for Gothic novels -- more than 800 of them during a 17-year period from 1965 to 1982 alone. "The Gothic presents a black and white world," Mr. Bennett once told an interviewer. "There are the innocents, the dashing and the vulgar. A problem arises and is solved, good over evil -- it's as simple as that. But along the way, there is excitement, mystery, romance." And all three qualities are seen in his covers, which have graced the covers of the works of such authors as Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney, Anya Seton, Susan Howatch, Jude Devereaux, and Martha Albrand. Born in nearby South Salem in 1919, Mr. Bennett came to Ridgefield when he was a year old, grew up on Gilbert Street, and was a member of the Ridgefield High School basketball team that reached the semifinals of the state championship in 1937. During World War II, he was a major in the U.S. Army in the Pacific, and painted many of the battle scenes he saw. He also suffered a broken back in the war. Mr. Bennett studied fine arts at the Institute of Chicago, and graphics at the American Academy of Art, also in Chicago, and began doing advertising art for Pepsi, Buick, and other national accounts in the 1940s. In the late 50s, he switched to books, and began doing covers for Ross MacDonald mysteries and in 1961, Gothics -- his first for Mary Stewart's Thunder on the Right. By 1972, Gothic novels represented 25% of all paperback sales nationally, and hundreds of titles -- some selling 15 million copies -- bore Bennett covers. Mr. Bennett lived for many years at the corner of Main and Pound Streets -- a Victorian that's been turned into condominiums called Bennett House. Around 1982, he moved west and today paints expressionistic works from a studio overlooking the Pacific in Astoria, Ore.