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Benton Spruance Portrait

Benton Spruance

Also Known as: Benton M. Spruance, Benton Murdoch Spruance

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1904

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1967

Photo Caption:
Benton Spruance, The Artist as Model (The Artist at Stone), 1942, lithograph on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum,Museum purchase 1966.66.10.


A pioneer in color lithography, Benton Spruance spent most of his life in Philadelphia, where he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and became one of the city's leading artists. In the twenties and thirties Spruance was known for prints that one critic described as his "velvety urban scenes and 'social conscious' series," which chronicled the life of ordinary men and women at work and play. However, Spruance was also a painter and draftsman who during this period took advantage of two Guggenheim fellowships to travel throughout the United States and Europe and sketch landscapes.

In the forties Spruance began producing moody, psychologically charged lithographic portraits of women, followed by mystically tinged work, based on biblical passages, that became increasingly subtle and sculptural in effect. Despite the demand for his work (he produced more than 500 lithographs during his career), Spruance continued to teach. At the time of his death, he was chairman of the art department at Beaver College and had recently retired from the chairmanship of the printmaking department at Philadelphia College of Art.

National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)