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Maker(s):Harding, Chester (attributed)
Culture:American (1772-1866)
Title:portrait: Asher Benjamin
Date Made:ca. 1830
Materials:oil, canvas, wood, gilding
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Boston (probably)
Measurements:Frame: 40 3/4 in x 35 3/4 in x 4 1/2 in; 103.5 cm x 90.8 cm x 11.4 cm
Accession Number:  HD 81.002
Credit Line:Mr. and Mrs. Hugh B. Vanderbilt Fund for Curatorial Acquisitions
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Framed oil portrait of Asher Benjamin (1773-1845), which has been attributed to Chester Harding (1772-1866). The portrait descended through the Benjamin family to Margaret Bliss Perkins (1885-1952) who married Charles Pelham Greenough (1883-1953) in 1907; their son, Hamilton Perkins Greenough, sold the painting to Nathan Liverant of Colchester, Conn. in 1980, who then sold it to HD. Born in Hartland, Conn. Asher Benjamin probably apprenticed as a house-wright; by 1795, he designed and built a circular staircase in the Charles-Bulfinch designed Connecticut State Capital in Hartford, the first such staircase to be built in New England. After moving to Greenfield, Mass. in 1796, he completed at least two imposing house, and published the "Country Builder's Assistant in 1797, which is widely recognized as the first American architectural handbook; in 1798 he designed and built the original Deerfield Academy. Benjamin moved to Windsor, Vermont, in 1799, and to Boston in 1803, where he continued to work as an architect and author. He published pattern books (7 in 47 different editions between 1797 and his death in 1845) and builders' guides that both established and spread popular taste in Federal or Roman classical architecture in New England in the earlier books and the Greek Revival style of the later books throughout the eastern United States. Harding was the son of Abiel and Olive Smith Harding of Deerfield who moved the family to western New York state in 1810. After 1812, Harding worked at farming, house painting, and furniture making in New York state, sign painting in Pittsburg, PA, and around 1817, portrait painting in Kentucky where he was immediately successful. After periods in Missouri, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, Harding moved to Boston in 1822; wanting to study abroad, he painted portraits in England and Scotland and spent some time in Ireland and France from 1823-1826. By 1830, he and his family settled in Springfield, Mass., but he maintained a studio in Boston and continued to travel for work, painting in Albany, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Richmond, St. Louis and Washington, DC. The bust-length portrait shows a middle-aged man with a long oval face, receding hairline and blue eyes and wearing a black frock coat, stock and cravat, who is facing to his right against a dark olive-drab background. Also see Harding painting of Charles Barnard, HD 73.113.

Label Text:
Branches: Born in Hartland, Connecticut, Asher Benjamin (1773-1845) was a builder, carver, architect, and owner of a building supply company who spent part of his early career in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He likely apprenticed as a house-wright in his native Connecticut with Thomas Hayden (1745-1817). In 1795, he designed and built a circular or “flying” staircase in the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford by architect Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), the first such staircase to be constructed in New England. After moving to Greenfield, Massachusetts, in 1796, he completed at least two imposing houses in the middle of town as well as Deerfield Academy’s first building in 1799, now the Memorial Hall Museum.


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