Benson’s portrait of his daughter is a textbook example of the manner in which most American artists adapted Impressionism. Benson esteemed his academic training and never dissolved his figures into light to the degree that French artists favored. He used a small brush to define Eleanor’s features, painting her realistically with an authentic sense of weight and volume. But Benson gave himself much more freedom in other parts of the composition: the shimmering sea and leaves seem to vibrate with intensity, Eleanor’s pink dress is loosely painted with broad strokes, and the details of her hat are abbreviated. The whole effect is vital and effervescent, much like an ideal summer day.
This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting, MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).