George Frederick Bensell (American, 1837-1879)

King Lear


George Frederick Bensell (American, 1837-1879), King Lear, oil on canvas,  50” x 40”

Bensell was born in Philadelphia and studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, along with his brother Edmund Bensell. George Bensell initially trained with John Lambdin, and quickly became a skilled painter of portraits, historical subjects, genre, landscapes, and subject matter from Shakespeare’s plays. In 1860, Bensell was one of six artists who formed the Philadelphia Sketch Club. He served as the club’s first president, and held that position twice afterwards; he remained a member until his untimely death in 1879.

Bensell was an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and eventually elected an Academician. He exhibited at the Academy from 1856 until 1868, showing almost 50 paintings. His work can be found in important collections including the Pennsylvania Academy, the National Museum of American Art, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Germantown Historical Society. In addition to being a talented artist, Bensell was also a poet. A twenty-two page poem written in 1867 by Bensell and Samuel Diffield is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and is recorded in the Library of Congress. 

His paintings are highly regarded but difficult to acquire due to the artist’s untimely death at the age of 42, cutting short his accomplished career.