In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: Frank Weston Benson, “The Ponter.”
Like so many of the great American artists of the 19th century and beyond, Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951) was an avid outdoorsman who delighted in trekking through the countryside for his subject matter — especially wildlife. By the end of his life and career in 1951, Benson had long established himself as one of the country’s most accomplished etchers, painters, and watercolorists.
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1862, Benson is perhaps best known today for his impressionist seascapes and landscapes, which are often populated with the artist’s wife and children. For most of Benson’s career, drypoint etching was his preferred medium. In 1883, he would study at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in addition to the Academie Julian in Paris, where he picked up his Impressionist sympathies. As scholars have noted, Benson was “lauded for his clear design, the naturalness of his birds and hunters, and the mastery of etching techniques.”
However, after 1900 and toward the latter part of Benson’s career in particular, the artist became increasingly interested in watercolor — perhaps inspired by Winslow Homer’s use of that medium to represent hunting scenes. Regardless, Benson would eventually complete over 600 watercolors, and the works form an important part of the artist’s mature years.
Heading to auction via Myers Fine Art & Antiques Auction Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 13 is “The Ponter” — a crisp and colorful watercolor original by Benson. Viewers find themselves on the shores of a lake, amid the reeds. A hunter and his loyal companion gaze away from the viewer and into the distance, where a flock of geese and ducks take flight. The title of the piece references the subject and his propulsion of his small boat by thrusting against the bottom of the lake with his paddle — also called a “punter.” The quick expressiveness of the brushwork is absolutely hypnotic, creating a rhythm and movement in the reeds that is paralleled by the distant birds. Auction estimates are $20,000-$30,000.
To view the full catalogue, visit Myers Fine Art & Antiques Auction Gallery.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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