One of America's most celebrated Impressionist painters, Frank Benson produced a broad diversity of work, including portraiture, still lifes, genre and landscapes. Of his landscapes, Mount Monadnock is a superb example of the paintings he produced early in his career, and it marks a critical juncture in the development of his signature Impressionist style.
From 1889 to 1893, Benson and his family summered in Dublin, New Hampshire. They lived in a small cottage there on the shores of Dublin Lake, at the foot of Mount Monadnock, a prominent peak in southern part of the state. In the company of his fellow artist, Abbott Thayer, Benson produced a series of landscapes depicting the surrounding countryside, including this one, created around 1890. They are among his earliest and most successful experiments in Impressionism, and rank among the earliest Impressionist investigations produced by any artist working in America.
During this period, the artist's contemporaries remarked on the importance of light and color in his art. Indeed, in 1891, Benson exhibited one of his landscapes, entitled Landscape (Dublin), at the Chase Gallery in Boston. Reviewing the show, a critic for the Boston Herald commented on the artist's growing mastery, noting that Benson and his co-exhibitor, Edmund Tarbell, both took "exceptional delight in color problems, particularly in studies of light under various conditions." (F.A. Bedford, The Art of Frank W. Benson, American Impressionist, Salem, Massachusetts, 1999, p. 19, 20, 74).
In this work, Benson paints a composition dominated by Mount Monadnock. In the foreground, a field of grasses, framed by pines, captures the warm tones of sunlight which are suggestive of the late afternoon. With delicate sweeping strokes of broken brushwork, especially in the foreground, Benson suggests a play of wind across the landscape, and demonstrates a decisive step toward developing his mature Impressionist style. Throughout, the artist plays on the qualities of sunlight, as if to amplify a comment he made to his daughter, Eleanor, in emphasizing what he considered most important to his art: "I simply follow the light," Benson said, "where it comes from, where it goes to." (The Art of Frank Benson, pp 1, 11).
This work will be included in forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work being compiled by Vose Galleries of Boston.