Ben Earl Looney
| Ben Earl Looney
|Born|| June 2, 1904 |
Yellow Pine Community
|Died|| May 25, 1981 (aged 76) |
|Spouse|| Never married|
Ben Earl Looney (June 2, 1904 – May 25, 1981) was a Louisiana-born artist and author known for his "Water Colors of Dixie" and "Cajun Country," pen and ink sketches of the Acadiana region of southwestern Louisiana.
Looney was born in the Yellow Pine community, located south of Sibley in Webster Parish, Louisiana, to Julian A. Looney (1871–1958) and the former Mollie McKinney (1872–1932). The community was so named because the original buildings were all constructed in yellow pine timber. Julian and Mollie Looney shared a July 17 birthday but a year apart.
Looney graduated in 1923 from Minden High School in Minden, the seat of government for Webster Parish, where he was known as "Earl." His artistic talent was already apparent, as he was the art editor of the MHS yearbook, The Grig. One of his classmates was Leland Mims, a 1921 graduate who was later a small businessman in Minden and a veteran member and president of the Webster Parish Police Jury, the parish governing council.
Looney thereafter attended the Louisiana State University School of Journalism in Baton Rouge, Methodist-affiliated Centenary College in Shreveport, the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., and the Summer School of Arts in Eastport, Maine. He studied watercolor under George Pearse Ennis (1884-1936)
Looney launched his art career from his own studio in Minden. In 1935, he moved to Baton Rouge to become the first head of the LSU Art Department. Over the years, he taught art in Sarasota, Florida, in a school-museum financed by the John Ringling circus family. There Looney taught Frank T. Norman, the mayor of Minden from 1958 to 1966, who became the first student to register at the new Ringling School of Art. Looney taught painting in New York City for nine years. He taught art in Weston, Massachusetts; Bremerton, Washington; and Greensboro, North Carolina. He spent his last years in Lafayette, Louisiana, the showcase for his Cajun works.
Looney derived subject matter from forty-five of the fifty states as well as Canada and Mexico. Ford Times, an in-house organ of the Ford Motor Company, published some forty-five of his paintings and articles. Another Looney painting is in the magazine of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. His work has been also displayed at LBJ Ranch in Gillespie County, Texas. Though Looney's published work was watercolor, most of his artistic talent was applied to oil or acrylic and is in private family collections. One of his popular oil paintings is titled, "Downtown Baton Rouge, 1920." Between 1940 and 1970, Looney painted many plantation houses in Louisiana. He painted large oil murals for various dignitaries and clients, including Ford Motor Company.
Other works included the following: "Beau Sejour," watercolors of Louisiana plantation houses; "Drawings of the Vieux Carre," a look at New Orleans and the[French Quarter, with captions in English and French; Cajun Vignettes, a collection of short stories and poems; "Looney Plants Grow Wild," paintings and satirical horticultural definitions.
Death and family
Looney died in a Lafayette hospital of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was preceded in death by his parents; a brother, Julian L. Looney (1894–1958), and a brother-in-law, Robert D. Moseley (1894–1972). His father and brother died the same year. Survivors included two sisters, Eula Looney Moseley (1896–1986), the widow of Robert Moseley, and Lucille Looney Miller (1898–1994), wife of Ray Winn Miller, Sr. (1899–1981). Looney died two months before the passing of brother-in-law Ray Miller. All the Looneys are interred at the historic Minden Cemetery except for Ben Looney himself, who donated his remains to the LSU School of Medicine. Looney never married.
- "Noted Minden native dies," Minden Press-Herald, May 29, 1981, p. 1.
- Ben Earl Looney obituary, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, May 27, 1981.
- Earlene Mendenhall Lyle, The Minden Cemetery: A Pleasant Resting Place, June 2004, p. 65.
- Looney, Ben Earl. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography: Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved on June 3, 2020.
- "Ringling Day," Time magazine, October 12, 1931.
- "Sibley native pens unusual book: His plants are 'Looney,'" Minden Press-Herald, November 30, 1978, p. 1.