<font color="#808080">BENSON, Frank W.</font>

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FRANK W. BENSON, N.A.
(
1862 - 1951)

Frank Weston Benson was one of our greatest and most versatile fine artists. He did portraits, landscapes, murals, wildlife and sporting scenes; he could handle any medium but is best known for his oils, watercolors, and etchings.

He was the son of George Wiggin Benson, a cotton merchant of Salem, Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Frost (Poole) Benson. He was born in Salem on March 24, 1862 and attended the Salem schools.

In 1880, when he was 18 years old, Mr. Benson began his art education at The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, remaining there until 1883 when he went to Paris for two years of study under Boulanger and Lefebvre at the Academie Julien.

Upon his return to America in 1885, Mr. Benson painted portraits in Salem, and also spent two years as an instructor in drawing and painting at the Portland (Maine) School of Arts. He excelled in painting women and children, often in outdoor scenes of brilliant light and color. Some of his well known paintings are My Little Girl, In the Spruce Woods, Pomona, Moonlight at Sea, and Eleanor.

On October 17, 1888 Mr. Benson married the former Ellen Perry, daughter of Edward Brooks Peirson, a physician. The following year he opened a studio in Boston and accepted an appointment at The Boston Museum of Fine Arts as an instructor in drawing and painting, a position he was to hold until 1913. There were four children: Eleanor, George, Elizabeth, and Sylvia.

In the early 1900's Mr. Benson began doing landscapes, outdoor subjects, and birds; here, too, as in his portraiture, his treatment of outdoor light was superb. He worked in watercolor and oil and in 1912, when he was 50 years old, he took up etching. He subsequently made over 300 plates and became known as the dean of American etchers. His waterfowl etchings were internationally acclaimed and he has been credited with helping to revive the then almost lost art of etching in this country.

Many great artists (for example, John Marin and Jean Dufy) show a tendency to abbreviate their work as their skills continue to develop, and their portrayals become almost a form of shorthand. This trend is apparent in Mr. Benson's duck stamp etching which he did when he was 80 years old. It is a brief statement that only the most technically competent artists can achieve; although its simplicity may not be fully appreciated by laymen who generally prefer more detail, its merit is immediately discernible to a trained eye.

Some of Mr. Benson's finest work can be seen in The Library of Congress in Washington, D. C., where he painted the ceiling panels representing Three Graces and four circular wall panels depicting Four Seasons. He was the recipient of innumerable honors and prizes, including election to the National Academy of Design, a distinction accorded only to the most outstanding fine artists.

By religion he was an Episcopalian; in politics, independent. His hobbies were shooting and fishing.

He died at the age of 89 in Salem, Massachusetts on November 14, 1951.














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