Sculptor Benno Elkan was born into a Jewish family in Dortmund, Germany on 2 December 1877, and studied languages in Lausanne before becoming a merchant in Antwerp. He moved to Munich to study painting at the Academy, then to Karlsruhe to study sculpture, before visiting Paris, where he encountered Rodin and Matisse, and finally Rome. Elkan married the daughter of a Rabbi, pianist Hedwig Einstein, and they later moved to Frankfurt am Main with their children. Following Hitler's accession to the Chancellorship and the introduction of anti-Semitic legislation, the couple immigrated to London in 1933 and Elkan's work was included in his absence in the notorious 'Entartete Kunst' ('Degenerate Art') exhibition launched in Munich in July 1937. Two of his sculptures were also included in the 'Exhibition of German-Jewish Artists' Work: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture' (5–15 June 1934) organised at the Parsons Gallery, London by German-Jewish émigré dealer, Carl Braunschweig (later Charles Brunswick) to support artists suffering persecution under the Nazi regime. Elkan first showed in a mixed exhibition of works by Jewish artists at Ben Uri Gallery in 1935 (and subsequently in 1944, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1956, 1960, 1962 and 1983); he also showed three works (heads of Prince Edward, Toscanini and the German-Jewish art dealer, Alfred Flechtheim) in the 'Exhibition of Twentieth Century German Art' in July 1938 at the New Burlington Galleries in London, designed as a riposte to the Nazi 'Degenerate Art' show.
Elkan created the first statue in Britain of Sir Walter Raleigh, and designed Frankfurt’s Great War Memorial, which included mourning mothers as a symbol of loss in the First World War (removed by the Nazis in 1933, it was re-erected in 1946). Elkan's sculpture included lifelike busts of recognised artists and politicians, but he also created works deriving from religious stimuli; the Knesset Menorah in Jerusalem features engravings of biblical themes and significant events from the history of the Jewish people. His Old Testament and New Testament Candelabra incorporating around 80 figures, were donated by Arthur Hamilton Lee (1868–1947) to Westminster Abbey in 1939 and 1942. Elkan was also involved postwar with the Ben Uri Arts Committee. He died in London, England on 10 January 1960. His work is held in UK collections including Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge; New College, University of Oxford; The Courtauld, London; and the Parliamentary Art Collection.