Sporting Art of Frank W. Benson

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.

Faith Andrews Bedford was born in Salem, Massachusetts at the close of World War II and was raised in a little village in Illinois. But, each August the Andrews family returned to New England to spend the month at her grandparents’ summer home on Cape Cod Bay. These two worlds–a small village in Illinois close to her father’s mother and a summer by the sea at the home of her other grandparents–form the background for many of Faith’s stories. Together with her two sisters, Ellen and Beth, Faith enjoyed a simple life, close to the harmonies of nature full of the sorts of games and adventures, experiences and discoveries that make up the life of children.

In addition to being an essayist and short story writer, Faith Andrews Bedford is also an art historian and noted authority on Frank W. Benson. She has written and lectured extensively on the artist and has contributed the lead essays for a number of catalogues including: the Benson retrospective at the Berry-Hill Gallery in New York City in l989, the exhibition of Benson’s sporting art at the Ward Museum in Salisbury, MD in 1996 and the Peabody Essex Museum’s show “Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist” in 2000 for which she was the guest curator.

Her books on Benson include the biography, Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist (Rizzoli, 1994) and The Sporting Art of Frank W. Benson (David R. Godine, 2000). She supplies appraisals and authentications to both auction houses and private galleries. She is also the advisor to the Vose Gallery Benson catalogue raisonné project. Her articles on the artist have appeared in numerous magazines.