Portraits by Henry “Hank” Besanceney

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Mendon Public Library is excited to share ten unique portraits by local artist Henry “Hank” Besanceney. Created over a span of 55 years, the portraits are each different and all have an interesting story to tell.

The portraits of the two Jamaican women were inspired by photos in a National Geographic magazine. After they were done, Hank entered them into a county-wide art show that commemorated the grand opening of Greece Town Mall. The year was 1967. Hank received an award for second place in the drawing category for these works. Early in 1970, however, the works were taken, and Hank thought he’d never see them again. Quite by accident, they were recovered in 2020 and returned.

Fast forward to 1989. Hank signed up to take a portrait class at the Memorial Art Gallery. Employees of the gallery posed for the portraits, and each was completed during the 1.5-hour class. Sadly, after only five sessions, the class was suspended as the instructor had passed away.

Almost two decades later, while recovering from knee surgery in 2005, Hank got out his pastels and created the portrait of his granddaughter, Tabetha Besanceney. This portrait may stand out in this show as it’s the only one created solely with pastels. The others are done using a conte crayon, an ancient medium used by Leonardo da Vinci.

More recently, Hank wanted to create a portrait of his late wife, Shirley Ann (Mamoone) Besanceney, to whom he’d been married for over 62 years. He looked back through photos and found one of her in her twenties. Again, he used conte crayon to create this image, adding in a little pastel to make the mouth pop. Once complete, he did a portrait of himself at twenty. These were created just last year.

Hank worked for many years as a barber in Honeoye Falls. When he wasn’t working, he would often paint. His various creations have been on display twice before at the Mendon Public Library. Well-versed in numerous subjects, Hank particularly enjoys discussing art, history, and wine. An avid reader, Hank could also provide recommendations for your next read.

Mendon Public Library is pleased to be able to showcase Hank’s beautiful portraits through the month of March.

For information about Mendon Public Library displays, programs, and initiatives, you can read more here.