HISTORY


David Bendann

     Today, Bendann Art Galleries is owned and operated by Lance Bendann.  But the Galleries have a long and prestigious history in the Baltimore community.  The Galleries began with two brothers—David and Daniel Bendann, Lance's great-grandfather and great-uncle respectively, who began their careers as photographers in Richmond, Virginia.  As teens, they worked for a well-known photographer Jesse Whitehurst learning and studying the field of photography.  In 1857, they opened a Whitehurst studio in Baltimore, then later opened their own studio "Bendann Brothers" in 1859 at 205 W. Baltimore Street.  They focused their business on portrait photography.  Lance notes "I always like to think they were on the cutting edge of the photographic technology of the period" since the daguerreotype (producing a photo on silver plate) had just been invented.

     During the Civil War when a person entered the service, they had a photo taken in uniform (just as they do today). Many soldiers had their photos taken to send to their families and as a result, Bendann's business increased.  They were one of only a few photographers to photograph both sides of the Civil War.  After the War, David and Daniel expanded their business and opened an art gallery in 1867 on Fifth Avenue in New York City, a cutting edge move where residential properties primarily lined the street.  They eventually concentrated their works in Baltimore, and in 1874, they split the business so David could continue his interests in fine arts while Daniel could focus on photography.  David opened his gallery Bendann Art Galleries, and travelled extensively purchasing art and prints.  During the Great Baltimore Fire in 1904, the Gallery burned down like many other buildings in downtown Baltimore and was rebuilt in about 1906.

     Three of David's sons entered the business and continued its operation upon their father death in 1915.  As the second generation, the business carried on through the 1900's.  The third generation, David and Felix, eventually joined the business and in 1959, they opened the first suburban branch in Towson.  "They were doing what a lot of smart businessmen do....following their customers," says Lance.  From 1959 until 1994, the Galleries had two locations — downtown Baltimore and Towson.

     After earning his undergraduate degree in history and a Masters in Liberal Arts from the Johns Hopkins University, Lance Bendann was the fourth generation to join the family business in 1976.  He bought out his uncle's business over a period of years, and he and his father David were equal partners until David's death in 1984 when Lance took sole ownership of the business.


The Bendann Art Gallery after the Baltimore Fire of 1904

     In 1994, Lance moved the gallery to The Shops at Kenilworth, and today offers paintings best described as traditional, representational, and conveying realism.  "We've never been out on the cutting edge of abstract art," notes Lance...."our works tend to be more conventional, realist paintings."  The Gallery represents several regional artists, and also some European artists where the roots of the Galleries began.  Bendann also offers services such as painting and print restoration, custom framing, and portrait commissions.

     Although the art business has evolved over the last 100 years, including internet sales and art lovers purchasing works with increased global travel, Bendann continues to thrive because they have something special to offer.  "Fortunately, we have a product and a service that thrives on personal relationships in a way that a lot of others don't," says Lance...."there will always be people who like a face-to-face, hands-on relationship."  He believes that assisting people to purchase art or restoring family portraits has an appeal that will keep people coming to art galleries.

     Lance appreciates the fact that his Gallery has been open so long.  "When I see businesses celebrating their 10th or 20th year, I do not scoff.  My reaction is always, 'good for you,' because I know that to keep a business going for 5, 10 or 20 years is extraordinary.  For us, it's just amazing."