• Biography

    Ben Culwell 1918-92

    (Bennie).  1918-92.  Dallas, San Antonio, Temple. Painter, businessman.
       A San Antonio native, Culwell was reared in Houston and graduated from high school in Dallas.  After declining a scholarship offered by the Dallas Art Institute, he studied two years at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and in 1936 Columbia University, where his instructors included Walter Pach.  In 1937 Culwell returned to Dallas and worked for an insurance company.  He began to exhibit his works and taught at the Texas State College for Women, Denton (1940-41)until he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in October 1941.
       War with Japan began while Culwell was on a transport bound for Pearl Harbor.  Beginning in January 1942, he served in the Pacific on the heavy cruiser USS Pensacola, primarily as a captain's yeoman, receiving three campaign ribbons and thirteen battle stars.  During the 1942 Battle of Tassafarongo off Guadalcanal, the Pensacola was hit by a torpedo, resulting in an explosion that killed or wounded 1,300 of the crew.  After a year of repairs, the cruiser returned to the South Pacific war with Culwell aboard.  In 1944 he left the Pensacola for reserve midshipman training at Cornell University, from which he was commissioned ensign.  He also attended Colgate University.
         While on leave in 1944, Culwell left a series of his paintings with Jerry Bywaters, director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  These works, executed on board the Pensacola, were shown in a one-man exhibition at the Dallas museum the following year and were also included in a 1946 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
           After the war, Culwell settled in Dallas and pursued concurrent careers as a painter and successful businessman in insurance.  His business took him to San Antonio in 1950 to open a new office.  He Returned to Dallas in 1954.  In 1961 he moved to Temple, where he became president of American Desk Manufacturing Company, retiring in 1974 to paint full time.  Culwell died in a Marlin hospital and was buried in Temple.
            Exhibitions:  Annual Allied Arts Exhibition, Dallas (1938 purchase prize,  1940,  1946-49);  Annual Exhibition of the State Fair of Texas, Dallas (1939);  Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1945 one-man); Fourteen Americans Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1946);  Texas Painting and Sculpture Annual Exhibition (1950,1952-54, 1956,1959); Survey of Texas Paintings, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1957); D. D. Feldman Collection of Contemporary Texas Art, Dallas (1957); Texas Fine Arts Association Exhibition (1957-58, 1959 purchase prize); Annual Texas Artists Circuit Exhibition (1958); Artisan Gallery, Houston (1959 one-man); Texas Painting and Sculpture:  The 20th Century, Owen Art Center, Southern Methodist University, Dallas (1971 traveling exhibition); Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio (1977 one-man); Meredith Long and Co., Houston (1977 one-man); Adrenalin Hour, Menil Collection, Houston (1987 one-man); Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston (1989 one-man);  Texas Selections from the Menil Collection, Galveston Art Center (1991);  Texas Modern and Post-Modern, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1966).