Eugene Benson

(1 November 1839 - 28 February 1908)

American Art critic, painter, and essayist, A. N. A. Born at Hyde Park, New York, the son of Benjamin Benson. He began his studies in the National Academy, New York, and in the studio of J. H. Wright, portrait-painter. Later, he pursued a course of independent art-studies at the Louvre, Paris, and finally, at Venice, devoted himself particularly to the Venetian masters. His professional life has been spent in New York, Paris, Venice, and Rome, and in travel in Egypt, Syria, etc. In 1862 he was elected an Associate of the National Academy.

In addition to Eugene Benson's work as a painter, he was a regular contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, the Galaxy, and Appletons' Journal, in 1868 and '69, and has written for many of the leading journals of New York. Since 1871, however, residing in Rome, he has given his entire attention to painting.

"Mr. Benson has concentrated the chief interest and effect upon the living group ['The Strayed Maskers']. There is dramatic action in the figures, harmony of color and grace of form and poetical composition in the tableau; and the repelling element in the situation has been pushed off literally into the far perspective, and veiled in the gloom of the room. At first sight this picture may be looked upon as startling and sensational, but it has been treated so temperately, so conscientiously, that this feeling soon disappears, and it will be admired for its unity and the lesson it teaches." -- New York Evening Post, 1873.


"Mr. Benson exhibited his 'Strayed Maskers' and several Venetian studies, which bore evidence of earnest study and a fine sense of color. Mr. Benson's pictures have of late been characterized by very decided ability." -- Prof. Weir's Official Report of Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, 1876.


"Mr. Eugene Benson's 'Last Worshiper' is commendable in the sense of its serious intent and careful execution, nor does it lack matter for reflection in raising the curious question as to the precise period at which the Egyptian of old abandoned the worship of the Sphynx, etc. Benson has evidently an eclectic and speculative mind, and in these days of clever and vivacious vulgarity it is something even to be serious." -- London Daily News, June 2, 1877.

By 1873, he had become an expatriate, eventually settling in Italy, first in Florence, then Rome and later in Venice, where he died in 1908. Sadly, Benson lost direct touch with American life and artistic expression, which previously had so fully absorbed his attention. Late in 1876 he received a gift of Whitman's collected writings, which moved him to pay homage to the poet in a letter written from Rome on January 1, 1877.

Among the better known of his pictures are,
"Retrospection", owned by Mr. Otis of New York;
"The Anatomist," belonging to St. Luke's Hospital, New York;
"Cloud Towers," "The Strayed Maskers" (at the Royal Academy, London, in 1873, at the National Academy, New York, in 1874), belonging to C. H. Sneff;
"Merchant of Cairo," belonging to T. G. Appleton of Boston;
"Renunciation" (Royal Academy, 1876), owned in Louisville, Ky.;
"Bazaar at Cairo" (National Academy, 1877);
"Hay Boats," property of A. R. Cooper;
"Peasants of Cadore at Religious Worship" (Royal Academy, 1876, and National Academy, 1877);
"Thoughts in Exile," belonging to M. O. Roberts;
"A Reverie," painted for R. M. Olyphant;
"Making the Best of It," bought by the Artists' Fund Society;
"Dead Calm on the Hill," property of W. E. Brown, California;
"Marketplace, Egypt " (Dudley Gallery, London, 1877);
"Study of a Girl in Blue," in the Snydam Collection, bequeathed to the National Academy, New York;
"Sad Thoughts," painted for James Lorrimer Graham, Jr.;
To the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, at Philadelphia, Benson contributed, "Sirocco, Venice," "The Strayed Maskers," "Interior of St. Mark's, Venice," and "The Reverential Anatomist."
To the Paris Exposition of 1878 he sent "Hashish Smokers, Jerusalem," belonging to S. R. Van Deuzer.
At the Mechanics' Fair, Boston, 1878, was his "Slave's Tower," owned by E. B. Haskell of Boston.

Artists of the nineteenth century, their works and biographical sketches, Clara Erskine Clement Waters, (1879)

View painter's art: Eugene Benson (1839-1908) [new window view]