About the Artist
Frank Weston Benson was one of America’s greatest Impressionist painters. He was one of The Ten who exhibited together in order to advance creativity and originality in American art. Benson was extremely masterful with oils and watercolors and the etchings he did, of wildlife, hunting and fishing, were so in demand that the wildlife and sporting print itself became a distinct art genre.
Early Life and Education
Frank W. Benson was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1862. His father was a cotton broker, his mother an amateur painter, his grandfather a sea captain. Both his parents were descendants of Salem’s founding families.
Benson’s father encouraged him to explore the outdoors. He was taught to hunt, fish and was given a sailboat when he was twelve years old. His brother, John Prentiss Benson, was an architect and painter.
Benson had early aspirations to be an ornithological illustrator and did drawings and paintings at a very young age. He began his art studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston when he was eighteen.
His parents gave him a gift of $2,000 for his twenty-first birthday, which he used to travel to Paris to study at the Academie Julien with fellow American students, Joseph Lindon Smith and Edmund Tarbell, who would later become members of The Ten. One of Benson’s paintings After the Storm was chosen for exhibit at the Royal Academy in England. With the remainder of his birthday gift, Benson went to London to see his painting and then to Concarneau, where he painted with Edward Simmons, who also became one of The Ten.
Career and Family Life
After returning from Europe, Benson opened a studio on Chestnut Street in Salem. He became engaged to Ellen Perry Peirson. The couple had a son and three daughters, who were models for many of Benson’s paintings.
Benson began painting portraits and taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he was named head of the Painting department in 1890, and remained until 1913.
In the mid-1980s, Benson was commission to paint a series of murals for the Library of Congress.
After joining The Ten, in 1898, Benson began to produce more plein-air Impressionist paintings in oils and water color. He also did wash paintings of birds and then began to do etching, which were such a commercial success that he couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Benson died in his home, in Salem, in 1951.
Benson’s works can be found in the permanent collections at the Met, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Academy of Design, the National Gallery of Art and other public and private venues around the country.
Frank W. Benson Self Portrait
Frank W. Benson Spring, Summer and Autumn murals, Library of Congress
Frank W. Benson Calm Morning 1904
Frank W. Benson Dawn 1924
Frank W. Benson Blue and Gold