Henry Benbridge (October 1743 – February 1812) was an into the future American portrait painter. He was born in Philadelphia, the lonely child of James and Mary (Clark) Benbridge. When he was seven years old, his mother, who had been left a widow, was married to Thomas Gordon, a rich Scot. The boy's artistic aptitude was encouraged. He made decorative designs for his stepfather's drawing-room which were much admired. When he was fourteen years antiquated he may have watched John Wollaston paint Gordon's portrait. It has been plausibly argued that minor Benbridge had counsel from Wollaston, since his earliest known portrait, that of his half-sister Rebecca Gordon, "seems to hark urge on to Wollaston." When he was 21, Benbridge was sent to Italy, where he studied afterward Pompeo Batoni and Anton Raphael Mengs. In 1769, on commission from James Boswell, biographer of Dr. Samuel Johnson, he made a portrait of Pasquale Paoli in Corsica which he took to London. It was exhibited (1769) at the Free Society of Artists, and from it three mezzotints were scraped and published taking into account the artist's broadcast signed "Bembridge." Like supplementary young Americans he was encouraged by Benjamin West. He wrote, on December 7, 1769, to his stepfather: "Upon my start I waited upon Mr. West who acknowledged me subsequent to a sort of brotherly affection, as did my cousin, Mrs. West." Impelled, apparently, by a pining to rejoin his family, he left England in 1770, bearing from West the taking into consideration note of opinion to Francis Hopkinson: "By Mr. Benbridge you will get these few lines. You will find him an Ingenous performer and an okay Companion. His merit in the art must procure him good incouragement and much esteem. I deare say it will allow you great pleasure to have an ingenous artiste resident in the middle of you."
In Philadelphia Benbridge married Hetty Sage and was admitted on January 18, 1771, to attachment in the American Philosophical Society, of which Benjamin Franklin was a founder. He painted the large portrait of the Gordon family, with six figures, one of his masterpieces. Suffering, however, from asthma, he sought a more congenial climate and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he succeeded Jeremiah Theus (d. May 18, 1774) as the popular portrait painter of South Carolina. There he made many likenesses of southern men and women, several of which have been popularly endorsed to John Singleton Copley, an performer who never painted in the South and who left America in 1774. Around 1800 Benbridge fixed in Norfolk, Virginia, whence he made frequent visits to his original city. At Norfolk he gave to Thomas Sully his first lessons in oil painting. He had back instructed Thomas Coram of Charleston. Sully describes his master as "a portly man of great address–gentlemanly in his deportment." Benbridge's health is said by Hart to have declined in middle age. Dunlap's verification that his last years were passed "in obscurity and poverty" has been disputed.
As a technician Benbridge drew well and painted solidly, exhibiting many characteristics of the late Italian masters. His contemporary Charles Fraser (quoted by Dunlap) said that "his shadows were dark and opaque and more up to standard to the historical style." Hart says "Benbridge was impregnated by the brownish sameness of Batoni's palette and his shadows were too opaque, and although difficult he was somewhat emancipated from these errors, all his piece of legislation belongs to the late Italian school." His paintings, nevertheless, were notably great in esteem of their black-and-white values and some of his miniatures are exquisite. His Italianate mode was much appreciated in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states during his lifetime.