Robert Henry Benson (1850-1929), senior partner of Robert Benson & Co., Ltd., merchant bankers, London, was a Trustee of the National Gallery from 1912 and a collector of paintings, mostly early Italian, early Chinese porcelain, and other works of art. His properties included Walpole House, Chiswick Mall, W4, though by 1924 he was living at 16 South Street, Park Lane. His country house was Buckhurst Park, Withyham, Sussex.
He married Evelyn Holford (1857-1943) in 1887 and it is likely that she is the late Mrs Robert Benson whose collection was sold at Sotheby's on 2 May 1945.
Benson was a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club and lent generously to public museums, for instance to the City of Manchester Art Gallery 'Exhibition of Chinese Applied Art', 1913, to the V&A prior to his major Chinese ceramics sale in 1924, and the Benson Collection of paintings loaned to Manchester in 1927, which was subsequently purchased by Duveen. The 1924 Christie’s sale catalogue, for which much of the information came from the collector, has been cited by Oliver Impey (1992 p.231) as the first learned auction house catalogue. The Christie's catalogue refers to a private catalogue produced by Rackham for R.H. Benson some years ago. W.H. Lever was among the buyers from Benson’s collection and items from his collection are present at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
Christie, Manson & Woods, 1 July 1924, Catalogue of a portion of the collection of early Chinese porcelain and pottery formed by Robert H. Benson, Esq, now the property of Major Rex Benson, Guy Benson Esq. and Con Benson Esq.
Reitlinger, Gerald, ‘The Economics of Taste’ 2 volumes, London 1963, volume 2, p.252 refers to record prices made at the 1924 Christie’s sale.
‘Who Was Who’, Vol 3, 1929-40, 1967 p.97.
Oliver Impey, 'Lever as a collector of Chinese porcelain', in 'Art and Business in Edwardian England: The Making of the Lady Lever Art Gallery', Journal of the History of Collections, Vol.4, No.2, 1992, pp.227-238.
The Times, Obituary, April 8 1929, p.14.