Firelight, 1893

by Frank Weston Benson (1862–1951)
Oil on canvas
40 x 30 inches
Signed and dated lower left: F. W. Benson. / 93

Provenance

Paul Magriel, New York, New York, by 1966

Sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, New York, January 24, 1973, lot 76 (as The Reflection)

Kennedy Galleries, New York, New York

The Virginia Steele Scott Foundation, Pasadena, California

Stuart Pivar, New York, New York

Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, New York

David Peter Bloom

Irving H. Picard, receiver for David Peter Bloom, acquired from above[1]

Sale, Sotheby’s, New York, New York, May 25, 1988, lot 172

Barbara Walters, acquired from above

Sale, Bonhams, New York, New York, November 6, 2023, lot 126, from above

Exhibited

St. Botolph Club, Boston, An Exhibition of Paintings by Joseph de Camp, F. W. Benson, E. C. Tarbell, Theodore Wendel, Dawson Watson, Philip Hale, F. P. Vinton, and Mrs. L. C. Perry, January 29–February 17, 1894

The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, Seventh Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by American Artists, October 29–December 17, 1894

National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 69th Annual Exhibition, 1894

(Possibly) Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1894 or 1895

Cleveland Art Association, Ohio, First Annual Exhibition, January 22–February 22, 1895

Nebraska Art Association, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1895

Akron Institute, Ohio, 1953

Finch College Museum of Art, New York, New York, Galaxy of Ladies: American Paintings from the Paul Magriel Collection, 1966 (as Lady before the Fireplace)

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Collection of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation of Pasadena, California, January 23–March 6, 1977 (as The Reflection (Girl in White))

Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, Frank W. Benson: A Retrospective, May 17–June 24, 1989

Literature

Catalogue of the Seventh Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by American Artists (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1894), 12, no. 19.

Hamlin Garland, Lorado Taft, and Charles Francis Browne, “A Critical Triumvirate,” in Impressions on Impressionists (Chicago: Central Art Association, 1894), 10-11.

Catalogue of the First Annual Exhibition of the Cleveland Art Association (Cleveland: The Cleveland Printing and Publishing Co., 1895), 57, no. 268.

Galaxy of Ladies: American Paintings from the Paul Magriel Collection (New York: Finch College Museum of Art, 1966), n.p. no. 2 (as Lady before the Fireplace).

“Two Hundred Years of American Portraits,” The Kennedy Quarterly, 9, no. 4 (May 1970): 274, no. 276 (as Girl in White).

National Academy of Design Exhibition Record. 1861–1900, vol. 1 (New York: Kennedy Galleries, 1973), 54, no. 342.

Collection of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation of Pasadena, California (Greensburg, PA: Westmoreland County Museum of Art, 1977), n.p.

American Paintings IV (New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., 1986), 56–57.

Frank W. Benson: A Retrospective (New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., 1989), 38, no. 7.

Faith Andrews Bedford, Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist (New York: Rizzoli International, 1994), 59, 66.

Emily C. Burns, “‘Nothing but Daubs’: The Translation of Impressionism in the United States,” in Globalizing Impressionism: Reception, Translation, and Transnationalism, eds. Alexis Clark and Frances Fowle (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020), 11.

Related Works

Before the Ball (Lamplight), 1893, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches; Private collection

Portrait of a Lady, 1901, oil on canvas, 40⅛ x 32⅜ inches; signed and dated upper right; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

Young Girl by a Window, 1911, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia

Figure in a Room, 1912, oil on canvas, 30 x 25⅛ inches; New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut

Note: At the end of the 1880s, Frank Weston Benson began painting several firelight paintings, creating elegant depictions of young women lit by a warm glowing fire, and often using his two sisters as models. In this work, which marks the latest of Benson’s firelight scenes, light pours across the face and hand of the figure, modelled after the artist’s sister, Georgianna. Firelight was awarded the James W. Ellsworth Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition of 1894 as well as the Cleveland Art Club Prize in 1895. A pamphlet published alongside the 1894 exhibition lauded Benson’s Firelight, describing, “It is masterly. I don’t know of anything finer in the way of firelight. See the simplicity of his method. That hand and arm is painted with three broad strokes of the brush, but it takes genius to do that.”[2] The artist would continue studying the effects of light for years to come.

Stuart Pivar is an American art collector who, alongside Andy Warhol, helped to found the New York Academy of Art.

This painting was auctioned as part of the collection of famed broadcast journalist and television host, Barbara Walters.

[1] David Peter Bloom was convicted of fraud, and his assets were turned over to Irving H. Picard, his court-appointed receiver.

[2] Quoted in Emily C. Burns, “‘Nothing but Daubs’: The Translation of Impressionism in the United States,” in Globalizing Impressionism: Reception, Translation, and Transnationalism, eds. Alexis Clark and Frances Fowle (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020), 11.

Artist Biography

An American Impressionist and member of the Ten American Painters best known for his plein-air paintings

By Alexandra A. Jopp

Frank Weston Benson, “America’s Most Medaled Painter,” was renowned for his images of female figures on a hilltop presented with Impressionist atmospheric techniques

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Notes
VII. Suggested Resource


I.

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