John Prentiss Benson (1865-1947) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the second son in a prominent Salem family. Both John and his older brother Frank W. Benson showed artistic promise at an early age. Frank rather quickly acquired a reputation as an artist, while John, who was encouraged to pursue what was then considered a more reliable career, chose architecture. After study in Paris in the early 1880s, he returned to the U.S. to practice his craft, designing homes, hospitals, schools and other public buildings. By the 1920s, his own creative reputation as an architect having been well established, John Benson put aside his drafting tools for good and turned at last to being the artist he had wanted to be since boyhood. In 1925 he and his wife bought a home in Kittery, Maine. With Maine as his home base, he continued painting, full-time now, mostly marinescapes, but also landscapes, portraits, murals, and decorative screens.
The Artistic Legacy of John Prentiss Benson, published in 2003, is the first book about John Benson. It is a 366-page detailed reference work, containing photographic reproductions of 150 of his works (100 of them in full color), a biography of the artists life, black and white photographs of the artist and his family, and a wealth of general information about Mr. Benson and his work. A loving husband and father, John Benson and his wife Bessie had four children and eleven grandchildren. He is remembered fondly to this day by those who knew him and who readily recall his gentlemanly ways, puckish sense of humor, delight in his family, and masterful skill with a paintbrush.