Skinner Auctions
Skinner AuctionsBoston MA
January 23, 2015 04:00 PMCalender

Frank Weston Benson (American, 1862-1951) Figure in White

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Auction: American & European Works of Art - 2779BLocation: BostonDate / Time: January 23, 2015 4:00PM


Frank Weston Benson (American, 1862-1951)

Figure in White
Signed and dated "F.W.BENSON.1890" l.r., identified on a presentation plaque, with
two partial exhibition labels and a cardboard plaque reading "MEDAL/World's Columbian Exposition" affixed to the back of the frame.
Oil on canvas, 40 1/8 x 30 1/8 in. (102.0 x 76.5 cm),framed.
Condition: Lined, minor old retouch to the left of the figure's head, stable craquelure with areas of shrinking, surface accretions and grime.

Provenance: Collection of the artist, passing to his children, then by donation to the Salem Public Library in 1957.

N.B. Figure in White is a quintessential example of Boston School painting, showing a beautiful young woman at ease within a handsomely appointed interior setting.

Frank Benson exhibited three oil paintings at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, in the prestigious, juried, fine arts exhibition that brought together contemporary works from around the world to hang in the Palace of Fine Arts. Among Benson's works was one titled "Figure in White" which appeared as item 175 in the catalog. No dimensions were provided in the check list, but, given the label on the back of the frame, it seems likely that the painting at hand could indeed be the same "Figure in White."

The model for this painting is said to be the artist's sister, Georgiana. The artist kept the painting for his collection, and, according to Salem Library records, it hung in the dining room of Benson's house in Salem, Massachusetts. Frank Benson had long-standing ties to the Salem Public Library, where he served as a trustee from 1912 to his death in 1951. In 1957, the painting was given to the Trustees of the Salem Public Library by the artist's children.

Frank Benson was born into a prominent Salem family in 1862. He trained at the Académie Julian in Paris, where his work was greatly influenced by the contrasting light and dark palettes of master artists Vermeer and Velázquez. Upon returning stateside in 1885, Benson and fellow painter Edmund Tarbell became the leaders of the Boston School. Benson, Tarbell, and Joseph De Camp all taught at the Boston Museum School and influenced generations of artists. They formed the Boston nucleus of the Ten American Painters, which was comprised of both New York and Boston-based Impressionists. Benson exhibited with The Ten between 1898 and 1919. Benson enjoyed a very successful career. He worked in an array of genres including portraiture, plein air, interiors, and still-life, and is perhaps best known for his portraits depicting his wife and three children. He was fascinated by the interplay of light and shadow and repeatedly used their effects to achieve both dramatic and aesthetically beautiful works. He maintained a consistent style in oil paintings throughout his career. An avid sportsman, Benson later focused on sporting subjects for his watercolors and etchings, but it is for his figural works that he is best known.

Estimate $350,000-550,000

The area of retouch to the left side of the figure's head seems to be pentimento rather than any kind of restoration. There is also some pentimento to the figure's profile.

Areas of shrinking craquelure particularly in the background to the right of the figure's head. Scattered dots of grime/ surface accretions.

The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Condition requests can be obtained via email (lot inquiry button) or by telephone to the appropriate gallery location (Boston/617.350.5400 or Marlborough/508.970.3000). Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner Inc. shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


Frank Weston Benson, Salem Public Library, oil paintings, Boston School, head, Palace of Fine Arts, Chicago, Salem, Georgiana, Massachusetts, trustee, Vermeer, Paris, Edmund Tarbell, fellow painter, Joseph De Camp, Museum School, Boston Museum School, avid sportsman