Untitled Document

Artist Biography

 Frank W. Benson may best be remembered as an Impressionist painter, however it was the enormous sale of his hunting pictures and etchings that gave him financial success and stability throughout his lifetime, making him the wealthiest of the group of Impressionist painters referred to as the “Ten.” Benson's mid-career shift from bright, intensely colored Impressionist paintings gave way to the more subdued watercolors and etchings of twilight and dawn scenes depicting the kind of male pursuits that he himself enjoyed, namely hunting, fishing, and ornithology. It was the large sale of his sporting pictures when they were first exhibited at the Guild of Boston Artists show in 1915 that launched this new tangent of his career that combined his love of sport and his love of art.

Benson had painted watercolors occasionally since 1890, but it wasn't until 1921 that he began to work seriously in that medium. He recalled: “I had always looked upon watercolor rather indifferently, most of the ones I had seen had been soft and pretty.” He had found them "weak and ladylike," not something that he wanted to use for his masculine sporting images. But he quickly changed his mind, finding the medium perfect for recording the elusive temporal elements of his outdoor excursions. Benson clearly understood the wide variety of effects that watercolor is capable of and his dexterity with the medium is evident in our painting, The Punter. He could use it very precisely, carefully recording in detail, or more freely with broad washes, letting the saturated pigments flow freely across the paper. His watercolors are imbued with a peaceful atmosphere achieved by his use of softer brushwork and more muted colors, emphasizing the tranquil, reflective moment of a hunter guiding his boat through the reeded marshes.

Benson often utilized his watercolors as the basis for his printed etchings. It was the large sale of his paintings and engravings that launched Benson's career in a continuous ascent between the years 1890 and 1930, only slowing due to the market crash of 1929, but by then he was more than financially secure.

Throughout his career, Benson was asked to sit on numerous juries, he was besieged by requests for portraits and had no trouble finding buyers for his works in all media. He exhibited his work extensively, so much so that he often had to turn down requests for one-man shows due to the enormous demand for his work. Benson won many prizes and awards and his work was purchased by the major museums of America including, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the Cincinnati Museum, the Carnegie Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.