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 Benjamin West Clinedinst  (1859 - 1931)

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Lived/Active: New York/Pennsylvania / France      Known for: portrait, still life, landscape and genre painting, illustration

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Ad Code: 3
Benjamin West Clinedinst
from Auction House Records.
Man with his Dog before a Hearth
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Benjamin West Clinedinst was a distinguished American magazine and book illustrator and painter, known for portraits, still life, genre and landscape painting.  He was born at Woodstock, Virginia, and named for American artist, Benjamin West (1738-1820) because of his father's admiration for West's painting, Death on a Pale Horse.  Much influenced by his father who had been a Confederate soldier, Benjamin Clinedinst, having gone through early schooling in Staunton, first set out to have a military career.  He enrolled in 1876 in the Virginia Military Institute, but eyesight problems ended his military aspirations.  Although he graduated from the Institute, during his second year he sought serious instruction for his obvious art talents by taking classes at the Maryland Institute of Art* where he was a student of Hugh Newell.

After studying for a year in Baltimore, he took advice from Frederick Dielman to study in Paris and went abroad for four years, 1881 to 1885.  The first year he was a student at Leon Bonnat's atelier, and then he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux Arts*, taking instruction from Alexandre Cabanel.  He also spent time in the French countryside including at Ecouen just north of Paris.  In 1884, he exhibited in the Paris Salon*, and one of his paintings, Peace, was purchased by the French government.

Upon his return to America, he was briefly in New York City, and then joined his parents in Baltimore.  There he did portraits and taught at the Charcoal Club*, an organization in existence from 1888 to 1970, which formed to provide sessions for drawing from nude models, activity regarded as inappropriate for art schools by many 'prudish' Baltimore residents.  At this time Clinedinst began painting genre scenes and also began a long-time focus on depicting American Colonial history in his paintings. 

In 1888, he married Emily Waters, and the couple moved to New York City where Clinedinst got a teaching job at the Gotham Art School*.  In 1889, he began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design* and became an elected Associate.  However, in 1896, he was temporarily removed from that status because of failing to keep to Academy exhibition commitments.  That same year he became a founder of the Society of Illustrators*, along with Robert Blum, Charles Dana Gibson and Howard Pyle.

Four years later, Clinedinst began communting to Philadelphia where he replaced Pyle as Director of Illustration at Drexel Institute.  However, he wearied of the travel, and in several years took a similar job in New York at Cooper Union*, a position he held for the next 30 years.  Also, Academy members lifted their ban on his suspension, and from 1898 to 1901, he served on the governing council.

During the 1890s, Clinedinst, in addition to his career as an educator, was prolific with illustration and portrait painting.  He did regular work for Scribner's and Century magazines, and illustrated books for Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain.  Among his portrait subjects were Theodore Roosevelt, Commodore Matthew Perry and Mark Twain.  In 1905, Clinedinst and his family moved to Pawling, New York where he died in 1931.

John David, "Benjamin West Clinedinst",  Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, Volume 1, 1826-1925. David Dearinger, Editor.

Maryland Historical Society, Charcoal Club Records, 1888-1970

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