Benjamin Benno was regarded as a child prodigy. In 1912 his formal training began with Robert Henri and George Bellows in New York. He studied at the progressive Ferrer School known for its emphasis on freethinking and association with the anarchist movement. For eight years he traveled throughout the world painting and gaining confidence in his art.
Financed by collectors, Benno moved to Paris in 1926. He briefly returned to New York in 1931 and upon receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship immediately returned to Paris where he remained until 1939. By the early 1930s he had established a reputation as a member of the international avant-garde and exhibited with the most significant European artists including Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Hans Arp, and Fernand Léger. Pablo Picasso sponsored Benno's first one-man show in Paris in 1934.
With the outbreak of war in 1939, Benno returned to New York along with many artist exiles. In America, his eccentric nature and experimental paintings were received harshly by critics. Enraged by this reception, Benno became bitter and hostile. Galleries and museums were disturbed by his temperament and Benno’s presence in the art world waned.