Frank Benson

Frank Benson

Armand Cabrera

Frank Weston Benson was born in Salem, Massachusetts in March 1862. He was the oldest boy of six children. The Bensons descended from a prominent seafaring family. Frank’s father, George, was a prosperous cotton merchant in Boston. Frank Benson had all the privileges of wealth with a good education and strong family and social structure. Frank excelled in sports and enjoyed hunting and sailing.

Frank developed an interest in art and at sixteen informed his mother he would like to pursue art as a profession. His mother convinced his father to allow Frank to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. On his 21st birthday, Frank was given the sum of $1,000 dollars and a ticket to Paris to attend art school. He was also instructed by his parents to return home when his money ran out.


In Paris, Frank attended the Academie Julian under Gustave-Rodolphe Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. He stayed in Europe from 1883 to 1885, spending the summer of 1884 in Concarneau, Brittany, painting outdoors with the artist colony.

When Frank returned to Salem in 1885, he worked as a portrait painter—to limited success. In 1887, he took a position at the Portland School of Art in Maine. He stayed there for only one year. He returned to Salem and married his childhood friend, Ellen Peirson.

Frank opened a studio in Boston and accepted a teaching position at his old school, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Frank painted portraits and figurative works and garnered critical acclaim and financial success. In 1898, Frank joined The Ten and began showing his work with the group in their annual exhibitions. He embraced his own idea of Impressionist technique, incorporating his fascination with figures and family. Commencing around 1900, Frank created iconographic female images of American Impressionism that are still being copied today–right down to the Victorian dresses and hats. His new style used a lighter palette and looser brushwork. These paintings, executed outdoors, secured his ultimate success.

After the 1920’s, Frank continued his oil painting. He also turned to etching and watercolors depicting wildlife, hunting and fishing motifs. In his life, Frank won more medals for his work than any other American artist. He died in 1951 at the age of 89 in Salem, Massachusetts.

BibliographyFrank W. Benson American ImpressionistFaith Andrews Bedford

QuoteThose things which you do when you are freshly inspired and excited by the beauty of what you are seeing before you are important things.~Frank Benson

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