Digital Commonwealth

Frank W. Benson (1862-1951). Prints and Drawings

Boston Public Library

or
Frank Weston Benson (American, 1862-1951) was a painter, printmaker, and educator.

Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Benson received his training as an artist at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Académie Julien in Paris. He subsequently became an instructor in painting and drawing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts while pursuing his career as an independent artist.

Benson created his first etching, Salem Harbor, in 1882. However, it was not until 1912 that he truly began his career as a printmaker. First creating images of family, friends, and sites along the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine, Benson returned to his early interest in ornithology by creating images of the numerous species of waterfowl that frequent the beaches and marshes of New England. Working in the techniques of etching, drypoint, and lithography, he became one of the foremost American practitioners of the genre of printmaking known as the sporting print.

In 1917, Adam E.M. Paff, an assistant in the Prints and Drawings Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, began to compile what became a multi-volume catalogue raisonné of Benson’s prints. The project was not completed at the time of Paff’s death, and Arthur W. Heintzelman--the Boston Public Library’s first Keeper of Prints--published the fifth and final volume in 1959.

A significant collection of works by Benson was donated to the library in 1941 by collector Albert H. Wiggin. The collection was further augmented by a group of prints purchased in 1944 and a complete collection of prints given by the artist in 1947. The library also was fortunate to receive an additional gift of Benson prints assembled by Sherburne Prescott, Albert H. Wiggin’s son-in law. The collection includes a number of preparatory drawings as well.

Critical funding to support long-term preservation of and enhanced public access to Boston Public Library collections, including this one, was provided by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

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