Created over a period of three decades and numbering nearly six hundred, Benson’s watercolors and ink washes are perhaps the most stunning works of his career. His earlier more conservative approach to painting was liberated by the spontaneity of execution and boldness of expression characteristic of the medium, and pieces were quickly snapped up by admirers at exhibitions in Boston and beyond.
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Subjects included figures, still lifes, land- and seascapes, sporting scenes and the variety of birds found at the artist’s favorite haunts, such as Sea Ducks, painted in 1925. Found along the New England coastline from Maine to Massachusetts, the eider ducks featured in Benson’s watercolor were likely observed by the artist either near his summer home on North Haven, Maine, or at Eastham, along the arm of Cape Cod, where he shared a hunting cabin with his brothers-in-law beginning in 1892. The composition demonstrates both his mastery of the watercolor medium as well as his intimate knowledge of the appearance and behavior of his subject; he successfully rendered the churning surf with clever brushwork and just a narrow range of carefully chosen blues, and captured both male and female members of the species, differentiated by their coloring, as they navigate a strong coastal breeze. Sea Ducks was initially owned by prominent Boston cotton merchant Edward Cabot Storrow, who collected a number of Benson’s paintings, including a watercolor now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. After descending to Mrs. Storrow’s collection in 1933 and then her estate in 1965, Sea Ducks has remained in the collection of one owner since 1966.
To collection of Mr. Edward Cabot Storrow, Needham, Massachusetts
By descent to Mrs. Edward Cabot Storrow, upon the passing of her husband in April 1933
To the estate of Mrs. Edward Cabot Storrow, upon her passing in July 1965
To Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 21900, December 3, 1965
Sold through the trade, December 21, 1965, and eventually to Philip Budrose, Marblehead, Massachusetts
To private collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 1966 to present
1). An Exhibition of Paintings by Frank W. Benson, St. Botolph Club, Boston, Massachusetts, January 15 – February 2, 1929, no. 18 Sea Ducks (Lent by E. C. Storrow)
2). Paintings by Frank W. Benson, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, April 24, 1935
3). Thirty-Eighth Annual Watercolor and Print Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, November 3 – December 8, 1940, no. 528 Sea Ducks
4). Memorial Exhibition of Paintings and Water Colors by Frank W. Benson, The Guild of Boston Artists, December 3, 1952 – January 3, 1953, no. 24 Sea Ducks (Lent by Mrs. Edward C. Storrow)