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American Monet




I follow the light, where it comes from, where it goes
Frank Weston Benson




Lily Pond,1923

Born on March 24, 1862 Frank Weston Benson was an American Impressionist painter from Salem, Massachusetts and a founding member of the Ten American Painters which included Childe Hassam and Joseph DeCamp. Of the three, Benson is the most impressionist, with thick dry brushstrokes and a more vibrant use of color both in his highlights and shadows. Benson is known also for his variety of subject matter and use of various media in which he used everything from wet and dry media to lithography and etching to capture not only landscapes and figures but wildlife, especially birds and fowl. His career was filled with numerous accolades and memberships, his exhibitions very successful, and today his work can be found in many museums across the United States. Read more about his life here.


Just looking at Lily Pond above, we see a sensitive eye with a deep respect for light and color. Although the composition seems to derive from a photograph, its low-perspective is intriguing and beautiful. His brushwork is so dry that this could be easily mistaken for pastel. Benson's use of color is utterly hypnotic yet natural as he leads our eye around the painting effortlessly in a shimmer of warm-cools and cool-warms in those reflections. The foreground bares the tall trees pointing downward toward us with a lazy blue afternoon sky behind them, and yet those floating lilies appear so palpable and real. Benson defies the simplistic notion of the "focal point" and instead by concentrating on the moment, the feel of the environment and the quiet mood, he presents a philosophical view of nature's mysterious and profound beauty for us to contemplate. And relish.








Eleanor 1907 Frank Weston Benson
Eleanor, 1907

A gorgeous portrait, this is one painting that would be a treat to see in person. Rather matter-of-fact in representation, Benson instead infuses color and light here to contrast her warm pink dress against a background of lush yellow-greens and blues. The inclusion of the fence adds character and earthiness to this bright sunny afternoon, and her gentle glowing dress with both blues and pinks with greys adds dimension to what would otherwise be a banal portrait. I like the rim-light of the sun on her reddish-brown hair. Monet would have heartily approved of this portrait.








Girls in the Garden oil c.1906 Frank Weston Benson
Girls in the Garden, c. 1906

A portrait of his family under the late afternoon sun, Benson is all about color here. Those yellow-green grass brushstrokes in the foreground are pure fun. Notice how he pays little attention to the faces and focuses more on the beauty they are enveloped in. An interesting composition here, Benson uses the triangle to establish age and family rank order, which is an intelligent device. No more explanation is required. Beauty, pure and simple.






The Landing oil 1904 Frank Weston Benson
The Landing, 1904

Stunning brushwork in this painting. Again, the painting itself is the focal point, the rich sumptuous blues and the feel of being outdoors on this windy afternoon. Note the range of values in the blue of the water. And the variety of colors. A beautiful painting.





Elizabeth Perley Kinnicutt oil 1909 Frank Weston Benson
Elizabeth Perley Kinnicutt, 1909

An example of Benson's formal portraiture. Here he shows he can hold his own against the likes of contemporaries such as Sargent and Chase with ease. Elegant, dramatic, glowing warm brushstrokes in the dress against a rusty background and a sincere facial expression. Benson can do it all.






Mount Monadnock oil c.1890 Frank Weston Benson
Mount Monadnock, c. 1890

An outdoor splendour that takes us into the fresh air. The use of various greens here against the atmospheric perspective of the distant mountains and sky is breathtaking, trite as it may seem to say it. His values are spot on.



Interior-benson-greyroom
The Grey Room, 1913

A great modern chiaroscuro study that regrettably I was unable to find in a larger image for us to view. The influence of Dutch Old Masters such as Rembrandt is clear. Note the subtle colors in the shadows of her dress. This is one of his very best.






Fire on the Beach, 1925

A subject that rarely gets enough attention but here is as natural and familiar as ever. This is pure atmosphere and it works. Anyone wondering why artists need to learn so much about greys need no longer ask...this painting is evidence alone. The contrast of water, smoke, earth and sky is utter poetry.





Moonlight--Moonlight on the Waters oil 1981 Frank Weston Benson

A seascape with the fury of a Turner but tighter, Benson captures a riveting sunset against the crashing waves of the ocean and invites us to experience it. Look at the muted greens in the water. All art is an invitation to experience how beautiful and mysterious life is. Benson knew this, and we are enriched from his attentive eye. He was one of the last great Impressionists, and the evidence is all here.

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There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri








Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.







Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Pompeo Batoni

Apollo and two Muses, 1719

Giant of the Rococo and early Neoclassicism, Pompeo Batoni was born on January 25, 1708 in Lucca, Italy. Immensely popular in his time, his name sadly is not commonly recognized today because like many Old Masters, his work is not defined by one or two singular masterpieces but by an oeuvre that is overall, incredible. Batoni is something of an anomaly in that he had the midas touch in every genre he worked in, whether portraiture, mythological, and biblical. He trained under a few painters, notably Sebastiano Conca yet he quickly fused his own style together by reinterpreting Classicism with his own vigor for dynamic posing, color and anatomy that he felt was lacking in many artists of the Rococo. His reputation as a portraitist in Rome was highly successful, particularly for many British patrons of the Grand Tour who had heard of Batoni by word of mouth and sought his genius.

In Apollo and two Muses above Batoni seems to conjure mythology and Classicism w…