Watercolor, 14.5 x 21.75 inches/Signed lower left
Born in Salem, Massachusetts was a descendant of Salem’s founders. His parents encouraged their children to explore the cultural environs of Salem and as the wharves were only a stone throws away from their home, they were a natural draw for the inquisitive Benson. Benson's father taught him to navigate the marshes, streams, and wetlands of Massachusetts’ North Shore, where he spent many weekends watching birds, hunting waterfowl or fishing. The Benson family summered south of Salem Marblehead where Benson spent his time sailing. Immersed in the natural world around Salem, Benson’s first inclination was to pursue becoming an ornithological illustrator. The senior Benson was not too keen on his son becoming an artist; however, his mother Elisabeth Poole Benson, a water colorist, thought otherwise and, in 1880, young Benson enrolled in School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he studied under Otto Grundmann. Grundmann encouraged him to go to Paris to study at Academie Julian and from 1883 to 1884 he studied under Gustave Boulanger, William Turner Dannat, and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. In the summer of 1884 Benson painted at Concarneau, on the Brittany coast of France, alongside Willard Metcalf and Edward Simmons. Back in the United States in 1885, he began teaching at the Maine College of Art, part of the Portland Society of Art (now the Portland School of Art). In 1886 he opened a studio in Salem with his friend, artist Phillip Little. A far cry from his earlier desire to paint birds, Benson made his living with portraiture. From 1889 to 1893, Benson spent his summers at the Dublin, New Hampshire, art colony near the Mount Monadnock. It was here that Benson came under the influence of Impressionist painter, Abbot Thayer. Throughout most of the 1890s and into the early 1900s, Benson concentrated on landscapes, often including family members, and maritime paintings, executed in an impressionist style. Many paintings were done at the farm Benson had purchased in 1900 on New Haven Island (Maine). In 1898 Benson and nine other artists including impressionist arts William Merritt Chase, Thomas Dewing, Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, and J. Alden Weir formed "Ten American Painters". After the 1913 Armory Show in New York, which shocked the world with “Modern Art”, a style that he eschewed, Benson focused on his first love—wildlife painting. Circa 1914 he began producing wildlife etchings, which became very popular. Also in 1914 was a founding member of the Guild of Boston Artists. 1921 marked the beginning of Benson’s focus on watercolor painting which he continued until his death in 1951. In 1935 was Benson chosen to design the Federal Duck Stamp in 1935. Benson was a member of the Boston Art Club; Guild of Boston Artists; National Academy of Design; New England Watercolor Society/Boston Watercolor Society: Society of American Artists; Society of American Etchers/Brooklyn Society of Etchers; and The Ten American Painters. Benson exhibited at the Royal Academy (London, 1885); National Academy of Design (New York, Hallgarten Prize, 1890, Thomas B. Clark Prize, 1891, Thomas R. Proctor Prize, 1906); Chase Gallery (Boston, 1891); The Ten American Painters (New York City); Society of American Artists (1896, Shaw Fund Prize); Paris Exposition Universelle (1900, silver medal); Carnegie Museum of Art (1903, Carnegie Prize); Art Institute of Chicago, 1922 and 1924); Copley Society of Art ( Boston, 1913); The Guild of Boston Artists (1915); George Gage Gallery (Cleveland, Ohio, 1915); Kennedy Galleries (New York City, 1915); British Museum (London, 1916); Arthur Harlow & Sons Gallery (New York City, 1945); and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1950).