William James Bennett

American , 1784 - 1844

William James Bennett was born ca. 1784 in England. He was educated in painting, sculpture and engraving at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. From 1808 to 1825 he was an active exhibitor of watercolors in London. He also produced aquatint plates for many illustrated books.

In 1826 Bennett immigrated to the United States. His reputation as a watercolorist ensured his election in 1827 as an associate member of the National Academy of Design, where he often exhibited. From 1830 to 1840 he was appointed as a Keeper, a teaching and administrative post which enabled him to live in the National Academy of Design’s building.

Bennett was highly skilled in the medium of aquatint and he made prints after many of his own paintings. His first set of commissioned prints were published as “Megarey’s Street Views in the City of New York”. They are all scenes of Manhattan which Bennett first rendered in watercolor, then as aquatints. While many other artists of his day were working on bucolic landscapes, Bennett often opted for cityscapes or street scenes, subjects that proved to be popular with the public.

Bennett was highly sought after in the United States as an engraver and illustrator. In the early 1840s, he engraved ten illustrations for the “New Mirror”, a weekly New York City literary publication issued by George P. Morris and Nathaniel P. Willis.
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