When he returned to North Haven, he realized watercolor was perfect for portraying the local landscape and the color complexities of Ellen's gardens and flower arrangements. Ellen would frequently place a new arrangement on the dining room table only to find that her husband had whisked it off to his studio a few moments later.12 Nasturtiums in a Vase is just such a work (Fig. 12). The informal arrangement of colorful flowers repeats the blossoms on the pottery vase; the vigorous brushstrokes of the background keep the work lively and vibrant.
Benson's watercolors were as successful as his etchings. Over the next thirty years he painted nearly six hundred, mostly images of wildfowl and landscapes. He could barely keep up with the demand, complaining that people bought them before they were even dry. Tellingly, he kept Nasturtiums in a Vase for himself.
North Haven was a place for renewal, inspiration, and experimentation but, most of all, it was home. The interior works Benson created there may well have been a way for him to hold a bit of Wooster Farm close long after he had left North Haven's rocky shores and returned to life in the city.
Impressionist Summers: Frank W. Benson's North Haven, comprising some seventy paintings, is on view at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, until October 21.