The subject of many of Gerrit Benner's paintings is the Frisian countryside with its wide horizon, the farms, the dunes and the cattle on the land. He was not concerned with a pure representation of reality, but with the expression of his deep admiration for nature, in simple forms and four or five solid colours. He worked figuratively but simplified his representations; in his landscapes he took abstraction the furthest. Benner was self-taught. Until 1953 he worked in the culturally rather isolated Friesland; he then moved to Amsterdam where he was included in the post-war renewal movement that dominated the art climate in Amsterdam.
Benner was born in Leeuwarden and trained as a house painter at the craft school. He married Geesje Schaap there and together they opened a gallantry shop. In addition, he remains active as a house painter and in his spare time he can often be found on the water with his boat, from which he sketches the Frisian landscape. During the crisis, the business goes bankrupt and Benner falls into a long-lasting depression. Almost all the work he made until then is destroyed by him.
After the Second World War, at the age of almost 50, Benner definitively chose art and came into contact with recent developments in art when he got to know Siep van den Berg from Groningen and the work of Hendrik Werkman through his daughter Fie. In Groningen, where he regularly stays, he draws and watercolors what he encounters in the area and from his imagination. Besides landscapes, flowers, birds and fabulously depicted riders with horses are recurring motifs in his work. During that time, Benner also regularly visited Terschelling. The dunes and sea he paints there show less and less depth, but are a stack of surfaces and shapes without a horizon.
After the war, Benner became acquainted with the CoBrA painters Karel Appel and Corneille. Under their influence, he uses more and more color and has his first exhibitions in Groningen and Amsterdam. His son rented a studio for him in Amsterdam in the early 1950s and Benner soon moved permanently to the city. There, with his expressive and colorful style, he appears to fit in wonderfully well with the prevailing, experimental climate. He starts to paint more and more with oils on a larger format than he was used to and his compositions become more and more simple. His work is exhibited internationally in the United States, Germany and Switzerland. Willem Sandberg, admirer and friend, purchases his work for the Stedelijk Museum.
From the 1970s, Benner can increasingly be found in the family home in Friesland, where he almost exclusively captures the vastness of the landscape in an expressionist style that never became completely abstract. The landscape would always remain recognizable in his work.