Frank Benson, a pivotal artist of the American Impressionist movement had, it would seem, three great loves in his long and productive life: his family, his art, and the sporting life. As a boy, Benson dreamed of being an ornithological illustrator. In mid-life, after an extremely successful career as a portraitist and painter of plein air canvases, he returned to the wildfowl and sporting subjects that were his lifelong passion. Over the next forty years, in etching, lithography, watercolor, and oil and wash, he portrayed birds beloved since childhood, scenes of his hunting and fishing expeditions, and still lives of incomparable delicacy. Whether painting a hunter setting out decoys, a wash of geese by moonlight, a watercolor of a companion poised to gaff a salmon, or an etching of a group of ducks silently gliding in for a landing, Benson conveyed the joy and beauty of a sportsman’s life.
This is the first book to concentrate on the aspect of Benson’s career that won him both national and international renown as well as financial prosperity. Written by Faith Andrews Bedford, who also wrote the definitive monograph on his career, it draws on a rich store of family memories, diaries, letters and archives to create an intimate portrait of a man who was not only a successful artist but a consummate sportsman. From Benson’s student days at the Boston Museum School, where he eventually became a teacher and director, to his frequent trips to his farm house on Cape Cod, where he spent countless days hunting, fishing, and sketching; from his annual salmon fishing trips to his many shooting expeditions in Canada, the Atlantic coast, the American South and the Rockies, this book touches on every aspect of his life and art. When he died in 1951, Benson had garnered every award of his day, the respect of his peers, and the admiration and affection of a devoted public. Here is a book that presents his sporting art, and his life, in all its forms and rich variety. We offer it with pride and enthusiasm.