The body of the famous painter, best known for his award portrait of the Archibald Packing Room by Bill Hunter, was found in western New South Wales this week

The landscape artist and Archibald Award multi-finalist, who received the 2005 Packing Room Award for his portrait of actor Bill Hunter, went missing over the weekend in Carrathool in the western Riverina region of NSW

Murrumbidgee police say a report is being drawn up for the coroner as an investigation into the death of the Broken Hill artist continues

Benjamin’s Sydney dealer Ralph Hobbs said he spoke to the artist about his upcoming exhibition just last week

“He said he was on his way out into the bush to do some paintings and poetry that would be [part] of the exhibition,” Hobbs said

“You know, he was up and down, but he seemed very up and very excited about the job he was doing. He was in the best of spirits”

Although he was born in Melbourne, he spent some of his childhood days in the United States and Mexico, studying at the Pratt Institute in New York City

When he returned to Australia in the early 1990s, he garnered awards for his work, winning the Mosman Art Prize in 1993, 1994 and 1996 and the Kings School Art Prize for Landscape Painting in 1997

But it was his Archibald portraits that got him national attention, first with the Bill Hunter entry titled Staring Down At The Past in 2005 and subsequent portraits of drone frontman Gareth Liddiard (2011), his fellow artist McLean Edwards (2013), You Am I musician Tim Rogers (2014) and musician Paul Kelly (2015)

He has had more than 40 solo exhibitions in Australia, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Rome

“[Jeffrey] Smart encouraged viewers to sit in the picture, Benjamin lets us look outside”

Hobbs said Benjamin had his demons, “felt great pressure” and “found solace in addiction to help him”

“But he was incredibly passionate about life and love … all he did was an outpouring of emotions”

Jason Benjamin

World news – AU – Australian artist Jason Benjamin is 50 years old