William Bennett was born in England. In 1799 the esteemed watercolor artist Richard Westall sponsored Bennett's entry into the Royal Academy of Art in London. Bennett showed an aptitude for landscape views, paying particular attention to topographical detail and the subtleties of light and atmosphere. Enrollment in the British forces in 1803 cut short Bennett's art training. For the next three years he traveled on assignment to Egypt, Malta, and cities along the Mediterranean. Bennett sketched throughout his tour, producing expansive watercolors of foreign landscapes.
Upon his return to England Bennett became a founding member of the Association of Artists in Water-Colours and received many commissions to illustrate books with aquatints. Although his reputation continued to grow, financial difficulties eventually prompted a move to America sometime around 1826. Bennett settled in New York City and soon became a member of the National Academy of Design. His watercolor and aquatint views of American cities received significant attention, especially from the Daily Mirror, and Bennett remained one of the most respected landscape artists in the topographical tradition until his death.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art.