Frank W. Benson 
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Lady in White (Helen Coffin Weld), 1897

A native of Salem, Massachusetts, Frank Benson was a key American Impressionist, winning wide popularity for style with his themes of sharply dressed women and outdoorsman leisure. Benson’s gifts of color and draftsmanship were evident at a young age, but his early and lasting commercial success was as much a product of Benson’s tireless dedication to his work. He left for Paris in 1883, studying at the Académie Julian. There he polished his style and was certainly exposed to French Impressionism, but his first steps towards incorporating the still-stigmatized techniques of Impressionism were halting and tentative. Some of his early successes back in the United States were described as Impressionist because of his focus on light and color, but it was not until the 1890s that he fully bloomed in that style. A member of the National Academy and the Society of American Artists, Benson joined with a number of artists (mainly from the Boston area) to break from the conservative ways of the Academy, in a group that was swiftly dubbed The Ten. While Benson himself was not prone to radical schisms, the much publicized break certainly solidified Benson’s relations with others of the group, including Edmund Tarbell, William Merritt Chase, and John Henry Twachtman. Whereas other members of the group had varying degrees of success, Benson enjoyed popularity and patronage, winning awards and critical acclaim throughout his career.