Frank Weston Benson, one of the Ten American Painters and a leading influence in the Boston School of American Impressionism, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on March 24, 1862. In his youth, Benson was a gifted athlete and excelled at boxing, sailing, and tennis. Growing up along the extensive marshes surrounding his native Salem, Benson learned to hunt and fish at an early age.
Benson loved nature and birds in particular. He wanted to combine his love for birds and his love for art by pursuing a career as an ornithological illustrator in the manner of John James Audubon (1785-1851). As a child he spent many hours at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard and Benson’s mother, who was herself a painter, encouraged him in this pursuit.
In 1880, Benson enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He studied with the school’s founding teachers, Otto Grundmann (1844-1890) and Frederick Crowninshield (1845-1918). Among his classmates were Willard Metcalf (1858-1925), William Bicknell (1860-1947), Edmund C. Tarbell (1862-1938), and Joseph Lindon Smith (1863-1950). Benson learned quickly and was recognized as a particularly gifted student. In 1882, while still attending classes at the Museum School, Benson began to teach free evening drawing classes in Salem.
In 1885 Benson rented a painting studio in Salem. He began to exhibit at the Boston Art Club and the National Academy of Design in New York, receiving much critical acclaim and numerous awards. After his marriage to Ellen Peirson in 1888, he taught at the Boston Museum School with his friend Edmund Tarbell intermittently until 1930.
Faith Andrews Bedford writes, "Benson's annual fishing trips to Canada's Gaspe Peninsula inspired dozens of watercolors and oils that ranged from quiet studies of boats at rest to paintings of the fishermen themselves."
She continues, "In this painting of a sportsman being poled upriver in a canoe by a guide, one can see the swift brushstrokes with which Benson was able to quickly depict the Canadian rivers and the men who fished them."
William V. Tripp III Collection Private Collection, Wellesley, Massachusetts
Literature: Faith Andrews Bedford, "The Sporting Art of Frank W. Benson," Boston, MA, 2000, pp. 107, 109, illustrated.