Robert C. Benham oil on canvas, “Eastern Point,” 18 by 24 inches, signed lower right.
Robert Benham was born on June 29, 1913 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Raised in Gloucester, Benham was uprooted with his family to Somerville as he was about to begin high school. He learned about the mysteries of the sea from his father Robert Burns Benham, who began fishing in the days of the schooners. “My interest in art, however, started in St. Clement’s High School where I did cartooning, and illustrating for the paper,” he said. Benham made his mark on the school boy sports world as captain of three sports, football, hockey, and baseball, during his senior year.
The rugged athlete played amateur hockey until a back injury placed him on the sidelines. During time out from painting the winter surf boats at dock, and teaching art classes, Benham relaxed by cutting a few figure eights on ice without a hockey stick and puck. The Cape Ann shoreline and wife, Dorothy, beckoned Benham back to Gloucester in 1937 after a year at the Bucksport Academy in Maine. While rearing four children, Benham served the Gloucester police force as a patrolman until 1952, when he was appointed Probation Officer by the District Court of Eastern Essex.
It is unclear with whom Benham studied art, but, his love for painting came early and never faded. Encouraged by his teachers, he became familiar with the work of the great artists, and perfected his own technique, inspired by his favorites: Corot, Monet, and Winslow Homer.
Vacations found Benham in coastal Maine painting on the spot in Machias, Monhegan Island, and Vinalhaven. When the surf rolled high along the Gloucester back shore, Benham was there with easel and brushes. After leaving his court post in 1968, he devoted all his attention to works of coastal and woodland New England. “I usually wait and spend a lot of time observing,” he said as he traced the evolution of a surf painting. I tell my students it entails a lot of study and observation. I may study a scene for several months before I paint it,” he said citing a farm scene off the shore route in Rowley. Benham reminds in soft tones. “How lucky we are to live around here. There are so many places to explore around Cape Ann.”
Benham’s works are in many public and private collections. The winner of many awards, he exhibited his work in several one-man shows. He taught winter and summer classes, held painting demonstrations, and once a year taught an artist’s workshop in Monhegan Island, Maine.
Robert Benham was a member of the North Shore Art Association, the Academic Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Copley Society of Boston among other professional organizations. He exhibited at the prestigious National Academy of Design in New York, the Rockport Art Association (several one-man shows), the Gloucester Art Association (several one-man shows), the Jehangir Art Gallery in Bombay, India, the Karat Air Force Base, Thailand, as well as, the continuing exhibit at his Harbor Road, Gloucester home.
Robert C. Benham died after a short illness on June 11, 2002 in Gloucester.