July 1, 2012

Artist Frank Benson:
Seasons in the sun

The famed artist made many of his great plein-air paintings at his beloved North Haven. An expansive new show at the Farnsworth featuring several of those works fairly glows with the distinctive Benson light.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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"Old Timers," 1948.

Image courtesy of the Farnsworth Museum of Art

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"George and Betty in a Dory," 1904

Additional Photos Below



WHEN: Through Oct. 21

WHERE: Farnsworth Art Museum, 16 Museum St., Rockland

HOW MUCH: $12 adults; $10 seniors and students; free 16 and younger; free admission after 5 p.m. Wednesday

INFO: 596-6457; farnsworthmuseum.org

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, open until 8 p.m. Wednesdays

RELATED PROGRAMS: In association with this exhibition, the Farnsworth will present the following lectures and talks:

• 1 p.m. July 13, gallery tour with guest curator Faith Andrews Bedford

• 1 p.m. Aug. 1, gallery tour with chief curator Michael Komanecky

• 1 p.m. Aug. 8, gallery tour with assistant curator Jane Bianco

• 1 p.m. Aug. 22, gallery tour with chief curator Michael Komanecky

• 1 p.m. Sept. 7, gallery tour with assistant curator Jane Bianco

At North Haven, he branched to etchings and drypoints. He purchased a printing press for his studio at North Haven, and began experimenting with the printing process and techniques. His subjects were fishermen and birds, primarily. He gave away most of his early prints, and considered the endeavor experimental.

At the urging of friends, he exhibited his prints beginning in 1915. They sold well.

"There was a tsunami of demand," Bedford said. "He could hardly turn them out fast enough. It was a lightning response. For the next few years, articles about his prints appeared in media around the world."

The Farnsworth show includes about a dozen etchings, all from North Haven.

A few years later, he added watercolor to his repertoire, at the urging of his son, George. They had embarked on an adventure together to the Canadian Maritimes, and Benson brought along a set of watercolors and paper. He liked the response of the paint and his ability to capture sporting moments.

In time, he mastered the medium. "And again, people wanted them instantly," Bedford said. "He was a master of many media, and in each medium he found an immediate audience for it. He became wealthy and famous in his own time, which was unique."

Benson's last summer at the farm was 1941. The family closed up the house at the end of that summer with every intention of coming back. In December, the United States entered World War II.

Everything changed after that. Although he lived until 1951 to just shy of age 90, he never returned to his beloved island. He painted until the end of his life, but was in poor health in his final years.

The house and farm remained in the family for many years. It still stands today in private ownership, and hasn't changed much. His studio is intact "and you can still feel his presence in the barn," Bedford said.

In many ways, this show represents a homecoming for this work. Benson created these art works on North Haven, then shipped them off. They are now back, at least for the summer.

"I like to think that when he finished this work, he would crate them up and put them on the ferry. They would come here to Rockland, and then go off to Boston on the steamboat or the railroad, and then off to collectors," Bedford said.

"So in a way, these paintings are coming home. It's a full circle, a wonderful continuum. The Farnsworth is the perfect place to do a show like this."


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

"Boats at Dawn," etching, 1920

Image courtesy of the Farnsworth Museum of Art

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"Study for Young Girl in a Veil," 1912

Image courtesy of the Farnsworth Museum of Art


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