Frank Weston Benson (1862 – 1951)
This amazing bas relief of Allen’s colleague Frank W. Benson is only 1.9 cm. That’s 3/4 of an inch! The coin-sized medallion was a gift of the Barbarossa family to the Museum of Fine Arts. F.W.Allen’s skill in creating such definition in such low relief and in such a small size is truly remarkable. As a student of Bela L. Pratt with a numismatic legacy passed down from Augustus Saint-Gaudens, both of whom were famous for their coin work, it’s not surprising that he could accomplish this feat, but without the gift Allen possessed, this would not be such a surprising work of art.
Benson was one of the Masters of the Boston School of painters and a regular exhibitor at the Guild of Boston Artists. He taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts for many years, leaving his post in the upset over the change in administration, while Allen remained as an instructor.
They both summered in North Haven, Maine as members of the bohemian artists colony there. Benson’s beautiful “Shimmering Sea” was painted at Bartlett’s Harbor, the view apperaring to be from the Pratt front yard next to the Allen cottage. Allen also sculpted an unusual Mermaid for Benson’s flower garden at Wooster Farm on North Haven.
Benson was a leader in the Boston cultural community and a friend of Frederick Allen. Two copies of this medallion were made, for the family and a North Haven friend.