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 Ben (Benjamin) Foster  (1852 - 1926)

About: Ben (Benjamin) Foster


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Lived/Active: Connecticut/New York/Maine      Known for: New England rural landscape painting, writing

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BIOGRAPHY for Ben Foster
1852 (North Anson, Maine)
1926 (New York City)

Connecticut/New York/Maine

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New England rural landscape painting, writing

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The California Art Club
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Benjamin Foster's painting specialty was bucolic scenes of the New England countryside. His style was predominantly Tonalist* with subdued colors and limited tones---almost exclusively autumn colors, muted browns, grays and rusts. In Tonalist tradition, he completed most of his paintings, both oil and watercolor, in his studio and not on location, en plein air.*

Foster was born in North Anson, Maine, where he spent his childhood, along with his artist brother, Charles Foster. For financial reasons, he did not begin an art career until he was almost age thirty. In 1870, he settled in New York City, and took a mercantile job to support art training. He attended the Art Students League* in New York City, and studied privately with Abbott Thayer, whose influence on Foster was the painting of floral still life.

In 1886, like many American artists, he went to Paris.  He traveled with Leonard Ochtman and Charles Warren Eaton, with whom he had been sharing a New York studio at 9 East 17th Street. In Paris, he studied with Aime Morot, Luc Oliver Merson, and Harry Thompson and exhibited paintings at the Paris Salon*.  He also went to the French countryside including Barbizon where he did pastoral paintings.

Foster returned to America in 1887, and lived both in Manhattan and Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut, where he had a country home. Most of his landscape painting was of that area.  He sought out "intimate corners of his environment---usually tree-lined ponds, fields, and woodlands---that he liked to depict at contemplative times of day, such as dawn or dusk, and during intermediary times of year." (Lowrey, 134)

In addition to painting, he wrote art reviews for the New York Evening Post and the Nation.  He was a member of the National Arts Club*, National Academy of Design*, New York Water Color Society*,  National Water Color Society*, Lotos Club*, California Art Club* and Society of Men Who Paint the Far West*.

He died in New York City.  Upon his death, the National Arts Club released a memorial notice that described Benjamin Foster as "the ideal type of artist . . . ardent in seeking deeper meanings, but indifferent to the casual and popular." (Lowrey, 134)

Carol Lowrey, 'Ben Foster',  The Poetic Vision: American Tonalism, p. 134
Peter Falk,  Who Was Who in American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Newman Galleries:
From 1870-82, Benjamin Foster worked at odd jobs in New York City until at age 30 he became dedicated to painting.  He became known for his landscapes painted around his home in Cornwall, Connecticut, which were admired for their meditative qualities, capturing the atmospheric effects of dawn and sunset, moonlight and twilight, French critics compared him to Cazin.  He was also a critic, writing for The New York Evening Post and The Nation.

His work is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Muse’e d’ Orsay, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery, Smithsonian Institution and numerous public and private collections.

Studied: with Abbot H. Thayer, c.1882; Luc Olivier Merson and Aime Morot in Paris, 1886-87.

American National Academy, 1901; National Academy, 1904; Soceiety of American Artists, 1897; New York Water Colors Society; American Watercolor Society; Century Association.; California Art Club; National Institute of Arts and Letters; Lotos Club; SC; National Art Club; Society of Men Who Paint the Far West.

Brooklyn A1A, 1880-86,1891; Boston AC, 1884-1904; AIC; Paris Salon, 1887; PAPA, 1892-1908,1916, 1921-26; Columbian Expo, Chicago, 1893 (medal); Cleveland, 1895 (prize); Paris Expo, 1900 (bronze medal); CT, 1900 (silver medal); Pan-Am. Expo, Buffalo, 1901 (medal); SAA, 1901 (prize); St. Louis Expo,1904 (med); NAD, 1884-95; 1906 (Carnegie Prize, prize), 1908 (Inness gold medal), 1909 (gold), Webb Prize, 1917 (prize), 1917 (Altaian Prize); Corcoran Gal., 1907-23; NAC, 1917 (gold medal); Newport AA, 1926 (People's Prize). Work; CGA; TMA; Luxembourg Mus., Paris,. NGA; PAPA; Brooklyn Inst. Mus.; Public Gallery, Richmond, IN; MMA; AIC; CI; Butler Art Inst.; Hamson Gallery, Los Angeles Mus.; Montreal Art Assoc.; City Art Mus., St. Louis, Mo; Omaha Soc. PA; Grand Rapids; Albright Gallery. Buffalo; Memorial Gallery, Rochester, NY.

Biography from Galleries Maurice Sternberg:

Ben Foster was born in North Anson, Maine on July 31, 1852. He lived in Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut most of his working life and did not pursue art as a career until thirty years of age; he died in 1926.  His brother, Charles (1850-1931) was also an accomplished artist.  Foster studied under Abbott H. Thayer at the Art Student's League in New York; and Aime Morot and Oliver Merson in Paris. 

Among his affiliations, he was a member of: New York Water Color Club; American Water Color Society; Century Association; Society of American Artists; California Art Club; Lotos Club; Salmagundi Club; National Arts Club; and was elected to Associate status in the National Academy of Design in 1901 and Member in 1904.  His notable exhibits include: Chicago, 1893 (Gold medal); Cleveland 1895 (prize); Paris Salon 1897 (Foret de Fontainebleau) and 1900 (bronze medal); National Academy of Design 1906, 1909 (Inness gold medal), 1917. 

Best known as a landscape painter, Foster's works are actively sought by both private and public collections.  His works are held in: Corcoran Gallery of Art; Luxembourg Museum, Paris; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Paris Museum of Modern Art; Oakland Museum, California; and, The Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art. 

Foster is an internationally recognized artist.

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