Artist, art critic and art historian. Son of Nikolai Leont'evich Benua, a prominent St Petersburg architect. After a brief period of training in the Academy of Arts, Aleksandr Benua completed a degree in law in St Petersburg University in 1894. In the early 1890s Benua and his friends, such as Lev Rozenberg (Bakst), Alfred Nurok [Nourok], Dmitrii Filosofov, Evgenii Lansere, subsequently joined by Sergei Diagilev [Diaghilev], set up an informal 'society of self education', which became the nucleus of the World of Art group, established in 1898. Benua's debut as a writer on art was a chapter on Russian art published in Richard Muther's Geschichte der Malerei im XIX Jahrhunderte published in 1893, which he subsequently developed into A History of Russian Painting of the Nineteenth Century published in 1901-02. In that study Benua criticised both the socially conscious art of the middle and second half of the nineteenth century and the routine of the Academy. In contrast, works of previously neglected artists of the first half of the nineteenth century, such as Aleksei Venetsianov, and those by members of the World of Art group received a favourable appraisal. Benua became one of the main contributors to the World of Art journal published between 1898 and 1904, one of the editors of the journal Artistic Treasures of Russia (Khudozhestvennye sokrovishcha Rossii), and published art criticism in major Russian periodicals, such as the journal The Golden Fleece (Zolotoe Runo) and newspapers The Speech (Rech') and The Word (Slovo). In 1912 Benua began publication of A History of Painting of All Periods and All Nations (Istoriia iskusstva vsekh vremen i narodov) which was interrupted in 1917. Benua emigrated to France in 1926 where he published works on the history of Russian art as well as his Memoirs.
Pseudonyms: A. Nikolaev; B. Ven'iaminov; B.V.; A.N.
'Awaiting the Hymn to Apollo'
'Heresies in art'