Signed and dated, l.l.
Watercolor on paper
14½ x 20 inches
Coastal View with Sailboats likely depicts the view from North Haven Island, Maine, where Frank Benson began summering in 1901. The following year, he purchased a farm on the island overlooking Penobscot Bay and spent every summer thereafter with his family.
Benson’s summers in Maine had an immeasurable impact on his painting. Until that point, his specialty was dark, quiet interior scenes, but the beautiful views by the sea inspired him to paint brilliant, lively outdoor scenes. In addition, because Benson was presumably busy teaching students for most of the year, the summertime afforded him the opportunity to paint much more extensively.
In 1921, after having painted in oil for many years, Benson began to realize the expressive potential of watercolor, and was also drawn to its spontaneity and portability. Because he could easily bring his watercolor paintings with him while traveling or exploring the land around his summer home on foot, Benson developed his watercolor technique quickly. He strove to impart the tonal richness of oil paint into his use of watercolor, whether painting delicate details or saturated washes.
Benson’s first exhibition of watercolors was held after he returned from a trip to the Bahamas in 1922 (the same year he painted Coastal View with Sailboats), and critics immediately lauded his deft handling of the medium. His watercolor paintings were in high demand from collectors, who purchased his artworks as soon as he could paint them. Benson would become widely known as one of the country’s best watercolorists and continued to explore the possibilities of watercolor painting for the duration of his career.