BENSON, Frank Weston
(b. 1862, Salem, d. 1951, Salem)

The Black Hat

Oil on canvas, 102 x 81 cm
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

1890s Impressionist art in Boston was primarily concerned with figure painting, and focused on society ladies in appropriate settings. Edmund Tarbell was one of the first to take this direction. His compositions of the 1890s, showing stylish ladies at leisure out of doors. The choice of theme was mainly responsible for Tarbell's popularity with affluent collectors in Boston. His influence and reputation were also consolidated by years of teaching at the Boston Museum School. People even talked of Tarbellites - that is other Bostonian figure painters whose technique and approach to their subject-matter betrayed an affinity with his presiding spirit. One of the foremost Tarbellites was Frank Benson, who concentrated on portraits.