"Figure in White" by Salem's Frank Weston Benton sells for $300K

“Figure in White” by Frank Weston Benson was auctioned Friday afternoon. The Salem Public Library decided to sell it because the work is valuable and the library was unable to display it safely.Courtesy photo


A story in Saturday's edition, '"Figure in White' sells for $300,000," requires correction. The $300,000 auction bid for the Frank Benson painting was actually the reserve bid -- the minimum acceptable -- set by Skinner Auctioneers. The auction's online system recorded it as a floor bid, but when no one bid higher, the painting remained unsold. It is now up to the owner, the Salem Public Library, to determine whether to seek a private buyer or try to auction it again.

BOSTON — The painting “Figure in White” by a well-known Salem artist fetched a fair amount of green on the auction block yesterday. The oil painting brought in a hefty — though under-appraisal — price of $300,000 for the Salem Public Library during an auction at Park Plaza in Boston Friday night.

The painting was housed in the library for more than 50 years.

Skinner Auctioneers had appraised the painting at $350,000 to $500,000. 

The winning bid was placed by a bidder on the floor. The bidder’s identity wasn’t immediately available Friday evening. 

Bidding on “Figure in White” lasted for about 48 seconds, opening with a beginning bid of $300,000. Bidding closed moments later when nobody would advance the bidding to $310,000, according to a live audio feed of the auction available online.

“Figure in White” was painted by Salem’s Frank Weston Benson, a trustee of the library linked to a group of Boston and New York artists delving into impressionism and dubbed “the Ten.”

The painting was one of three Benson works displayed at the World’s Columbian exposition in Chicago in 1893. It was donated by the Benson family to the library in 1957, following the artist’s death in 1951.

Due to the painting’s value, it has recently been locked away in the library director’s office, seldom seen by anyone except for staff and trustees. Library trustees voted unanimously to auction it off to the highest bidder due to the painting’s value and the difficulty in displaying it.

“It had to be kept under lock and key,” library Director Nancy Tracy previously told the News, “so the trustees thought it would be better to put it up for auction and use the money on other projects that the public would be able to enjoy.”

For more on this story or other story-related inquiries, email dluca@salemnews.com, call 978-338-2523 or message @DustinLucaSN on Twitter.

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