Painter of Sunlight: American Impressionist, Frank W. Benson

by | Jun 12, 2022

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Frank W. Benson, (March 24, 1862 – November 15, 1951) was an American Impressionist from Salem, MA. He traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julien from 1883 to 1884 , where his teacher, Gustave Boulanger, told him: “Young man, your career is in your hands… you will do very well.” And indeed, he did.

Benson’s lovely daughters, Eleanor (born 1890),  Elisabeth (born 1892) and Sylvia (born 1898) were frequent models.

Summer (1909) the painting above, is in the collection of the Rhode Island School of Design. It features the artist’s daughters and friends on a hillside near his summer home on North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. Elisabeth “Betty” Benson and her friend, Anna Hathaway, are seated at the left, while Eleanor Benson stands and Benson’s niece, Margaret “Gretchen” Strong, is seated to the right. The group presents an optimistic view of relaxed yet confident young womanhood.

Eleanor is standing in a pose identical to the painting below, Sunlight (1909, Col. Indianapolis Museum of Art.)

Is she seeing a bright future beyond the perspective of her elders?

Benson was a member of The Ten, a group of American painters whose work reflects the influence of French Impressionism and builds upon it to create a fresh, American feeling.




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