Wilson Nesbitt Benson [1861-1930]
Old lady and parrot, ca.1900
Mixed media on board
5-1/2 x 5 inches
Signed with monogram lower right.
Marking type: Handwriting in pencil.
Location: Verso upper left.
Text: ‘N. Benson / 44 W. 22nd St? / N.Y., CI? + Y?’.
This painting might be Benson’s mother or sister from about 1897-1900.
Wilson Nesbitt Benson (1861-1930)
Wilson Nesbitt Benson (more commonly known as Nesbitt Benson and sometimes listed as Nesbitte Benson) is an American painter, illustrator and engraver known for his portraits. Benson was born in June 1861 on a cotton plantation in Arkansas to Mr. Benson and Fannie E. Benson of Mississippi. In 1872, at age 11, Benson’s family moved from Arkansas to Baltimore, MD. He graduated from law school at the University of Virginia in 1884. Around 1885, Benson moves to Jackson, MS and begins to practice law. After his first and only case, Benson focuses on drafting, etching, engraving, woodcuts and illustrations for local newspapers. He creates a map of Mississippi with Jackson featured in the center. By 1887, Benson moves to Birmingham, AL but leaves quickly, accepting an engraving job in Cincinnati, OH and taking evening art classes. Seeking more immersive art education, Benson goes to Paris, France in October 1891, staying at The Clarion at Hotel de la Haute Loire. Benson enrolls in many of the well known art academies and schools of Paris. After a year of study, he strikes out on a three and half-year grand tour of Europe and the far east including: Tangiers, Rome, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In 1896, Benson returns to Paris to study under William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905). Becoming part of the Art Association of Paris, he writes the article, “In our club garden,” in the illustrated magazine The Quartier Latin. In May of 1896, Benson shows at the Paris Salon.
Returning home to America in 1897, Benson summers with his mother and sister in Flat Rocks, NC, sets up a art studio to paint portraits of locals in Jackson, MS and occupies himself creating and submitting work for East coast exhibitions. He joins the Mississippi Art Association. Benson’s work is placed in the State Capitol of Jackson and the Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS receives a large presentation of his works.
In 1900 and 1901 his work is exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA featuring old women (most probably his mother) in portrait miniatures. Benson remains in Jackson, MS until he moves to New York around 1904. In New York he works as a portrait artist and illustrator for several prominent magazines including: The Strand Magazine, Life magazine, Pearson’s Magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. He illustrates several books including: Christmas Eve on Lonesome by John Fox, (1904), The Stowaway by Louis Tracy (1909) and The Vanishing Smuggler by Stephen Chalmers (1909). Benson becomes the secretary of the American Art Association.
Benson marries Texas hat designer, Pearle T. Benson (1884-1968), and they have a son, Howard Benson, in 1920.
In an article in Life magazine, Benson shares what he believes artists must do: “‘Much of my life has been spent acquiring useless information.’ What a necessary equipment this is for any artist!”
– Abilene Reporter-News, Abilene, TX, “Mrs. Benson, 83, dies in rest home”, Sunday, June 23, 1968, page 7.
– The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Special Paris letter”, Thursday, November 26, 1891, page 2.
– The Odessa American, Odessa, TX, “Nesbitt Benson [obituary]” Friday, October 29, 1976, page 2.
– The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Local matters”, Thursday, October 8, 1891, page 8.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MI, “Never underestimate the power–Mississippi Art Association started from women’s exhibit”, Sunday, July 23, 1967, page 53.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Mississippi Art Association tea at mansion”, Wednesday, February 8, 1922, page 5.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Local matters”, Tuesday, December 1, 1891, page 4.
– Jackson Daily News, Jackson, MS, “Want advertising”, Saturday, October 11, 1913, page 8.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Ad for Eyrich & Co.”, Tuesday, December 24, 1907, page 8.
– Weekly Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Artist Benson at home”, Thursday, March 4, 1897, page 8.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Can’t do without it”, Monday, July 19, 1897, page 6.
– The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD, “Sparrows Point and vicinity”, Monday, July 16, 1906, page 9.
– The Inter Ocean, Chicago, IL, “The stowaway”, Saturday, December 11, 1909, page 5.
– The State Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Personal”, Saturday, August 20, 1887, page 5.
– The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “The city”, Thursday, July 21, 1892, page 8.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Wild geese flying south”, Tuesday, November 8, 1927, page 6.
– The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Personal points”, Wednesday, August 6, 1884, page 3.
– Jackson Daily News, Jackson, MS, “Mrs. A. E. Winter at home”, Friday, November 3, 1916, page 3.
– Arizona Republic, Phoenix, AZ, “Savoy”, January 10, 1928, page 2.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, Friday, “Pages from the past”, November 30, 1951, page 14.
– The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Local and other notes”, Wednesday, October 21, 1885, page 3.
– Simpson County News, Mendenhall, MS, “Magee news” by Miss Gusta Patrick, Thursday, April 10, 1930, page 9.
– Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, “Newsy society letter”, Saturday, November 7, 1896, page 3.
– Life, Life Publishing Company, New York, NY, March, 6, 1913, volume 61, number 1584, page 504, illustrated.
– Life, Life Publishing Company, New York, NY, July 3, 1913, volume 62, number 1601, illustrated.
– Pearson’s magazine, Pearson Publishing Company, New York, NY, March, 1909, volume 21, number 3, page 213, 298, illustrated: b&w.
– Life, Life Publishing Company, New York, NY, January, 1907, volume 50, illustrated: b&w.
– Christmas eve on Lonesome by John Fox, 1904, illustrations by Benson.
– The vanishing smuggler by Stephen Chalmers ; illustrations by Nesbitt Benson, 1909.
– The stowaway by Louis Tracy ; illustrations by Nesbitt Benson, 1909.
– The Strand Magazine, February to July, volumn 13.
– Life, 1907, volume 50.
– Publishers weekly, 1905.
– The Cincinnati, Lancet-Clinic: A weekly journal of medicine and surgery, 1889.
– Appletons’ annual cyclopedia and register of important events. Embracing political, military, and ecclesiastical affairs; public documents; biography, statistics, commerce, finance, literature, science, agriculture, and mechanical industry. v.36