Self-taught historian and critic of American art. Benjamin was born in Argos, Greece in 1837 where his parents were American missionaries. He was educated at the English College in Smyrna, Turkey and Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He graduated from Williams College in 1859 having studied both law and art, also seamanship. During his travels, he gained experience as a maritime painter and illustrator. Benjamin published a series of marine depictions of the Crimean War in the London Illustrated News in 1854. He married Clara Stowell, (d. 1880) in 1863.