Gentle études

Mary Kate Benson (1846-1921) Landscape with figures in a row boat 1879 oil on canvas 29 x 45cm


Mary Stratton Ryan looks at the life of Mary Kate Benson, a tentative figure in the Irish art pantheon, on the centenary of her death

On 23 June 1883 a prestigious art exhibition opened in the Athenaeum in Limerick City. It was held in collaboration with the Science and Art Department, South Kensington Museum, London. Paintings on loan included canvases by Rubens, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Constable, Caravaggio, Poussin and Van Dyck. Hanging beside these classical masterpieces were well-known Irish painters: Haverty, Maclise, Danby, Mulvany, Brocas and Cregan, to name a few.

Four hundred and twenty-eight works were on show. Twenty-seven of these were by eight female artists – one Welsh, two Italian, three British and two Irish. Outstanding were recent works by Mary Kate Benson and Sarah Henrietta Purser, both professional artists. Benson’s paintings included: Morning Mists, North Wales, Landscape, Birchwood in June, A Portrait, and Breezy Day.

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