Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951)
Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951)

The Gray Room

Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951)
The Gray Room
signed and dated 'F.W. Benson 1913' (lower left)--signed again on the stretcher
oil on canvas
25¼ x 30¾ in. (64.1 x 78.1 cm.)
Guild of Boston Artists, Boston, Massachusetts.
Mrs. G. H. Windeler, Eastham, Massachusetts, purchased from the above.
Macbeth Galleries, New York.
W.J. Johnson, Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
By descent in the family to the present owner.
"Works by the Ten American Painters," in New York Tribune, March 16, 1913
C.H. Caffin, "The Ten Open at Their Annual Show at Montross Gallery," in New York American, March 17, 1913, p. 6.
"The Ten Americans" in Boston Evening Transcript, March 18, 1913, p. 11
"American Paintings at Copley Gallery" in Boston Post, April 16, 1913, p. 7
F.A. Bedford, Frank Weston Benson, American Impressionist, New York, 1994, p. 145
"Art Exhibit by the Ten, American Painters Will Show Work at Copley Gallery for Three Weeks. Very High Order of Merit," in Boston Herald, April 13, 1913, p. 21
"Ten American Painters Open Sixteenth Exhibition" in New York Herald, March 13, 1913. p. 8
"The Tens Annual Show," in American Art News, March 15, 1913
"Art and Artists," in The Global Commercial Advertiser, March 13, 1913, p. 8.
"Ten American Painters: Brilliant Exhibition of This Group of Leading Artists to be Opened on Monday at the Copley Gallery New and Important works by Benson, Chase, DeCamp, Hassam, Metcalf, Reid, Simmons, Tarbell and Weir," in Boston Evening Transcript, April 12, 1913, p. 3
"The Ten," in New York Times, March 17, 1913, p. 15
"Exhibit of 'The Ten' Shows New Technical Attainments," in Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 1913, p. 14
"Annual of the Ten American Painters," in The Sun, March 16, 1913, p. 8.
"Sixteenth Annual Exhibition of a Society of Ten American Painters," in The World, March 16, 1913
New York, Montross Galleries, Ten American Painters, March-April 1913 (this exhibition also traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, Copley Society, April-May 1913)
Rochester, New York, Empire Art Galleries, January 1913.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, Twentieth Annual Exhibition, May-July 1913
Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, Annual Exhibition, November-December 1913
Boston, Massachusetts, Guild of Boston Artists, Paintings and Drawings by Frank Weston Benson, January 1915
Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Art Museum, September 1915
Rochester, New York, A Collection of Paintings, Miniatures & Sculpture from the Guild of Boston Artists, October 1915
Boston, Massachusetts, Guild of Boston Artists, A Special Exhibit, March-April 1916
Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Art, Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture and Miniatures by the Guild of Boston Artists, November 1916

Lot Essay

Light From a Window, 1912, oil on canvas, private collection
Girl Reading, 1912, etching, 6 x 77/8 in. (15.2 x 20 cm.)

Frank Weston Benson painted The Gray Room in 1913, a time when the artist was at the height of his career, and the celebrated painters of the Boston School were creating many of their finest works. The Gray Room exemplifies the timeless beauty that these artists sought to create. An elegant young woman in a white dress sits on a low settee in a subtly lighted room. She reads with her back to the light source--a nearby window--which illuminates her reading material and her flowing dress, as well as the wall behind her. She delicately rests her elbow on an adjacent table, upon which sits an arrangement of fruit in a Chinese export bowl. The rarefied, tasteful setting underscores the sense of restraint and elegance that typified Benson's style at this time. The painting is subtly composed, and Benson's rich, dashing brushwork animates the surface of the canvas, giving visual interest to an elegantly understated canvas.

When The Gray Room was exhibited in the 1913 exhibition of The Ten in Boston, the painting was the subject of considerable praise. Critics found Benson's use of light in the interior setting particularly sensitive. Benson infused the scene with a warm rich light source, reflecting off the satin gray walls and highlighting the soothing color scheme.
A critic for the Boston Post noted in his review of the 1913 exhibition at the Copley Gallery in Boston that The Gray Room was a 'favorite' of the exhibition and described the painting as 'a young woman who sits back the light in a tasteful room.'
The critic for the Boston Evening Transcript lavished even more praise on the composition, writing, "The real surprise of the exhibition is furnished by Mr. Benson, whose picture of 'The Gray Room' wherein a young woman is seen seated on a low settee reading a paper in the diffused light, is the most subtle thing I have seen so far by him. The figure, enveloped in gray shadows, is softly traced against a gray wall, making a beautiful harmony of cool grays, delightfully restful and satisfying. The Japanese lamp, the fruit on the table, as well as the color stuffs in a corner, are so subdued and toned down by the gray light as to give it the appearance of a monochrome in which the presence of color is felt more than seen." (Boston Evening Transcript, March 18, 1913)

Benson seems to have painted The Gray Room specifically for the 1913 exhibition of The Ten. The luminous painting was first exhibited in Rochester, New York, and then stood as his major statement in New York at the Montross Gallery exhibition and its subsequent venue in Boston at the Copley Society. During this period of his career Benson seems to have established a differentiation between his works on paper and his oils--the latter being impressive figural works, both interiors and outdoor paintings.

This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work being compiled by Sheila Dugan and Vose Galleries of Boston.

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