Painter. Known particularly for views of New Hampshire's White Mountains, he also painted portraits and still lifes, usually depicting flowers. He was born in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, and worked as a teenager in a Boston lithographic shop. He painted portraits before departing in 1841 for Europe, where he spent most of the following seven years. There he worked in Paris, Italy, and Düsseldorf alongside other aspiring American artists, particularly John Kensett. He came home committed to landscape painting and settled in Woburn, near Boston, where he maintained a studio. About 1850 he began working regularly in the White Mountains. Near North Conway, he soon established the summer home that he visited for half a century. Occasionally he spent winter months there as well. His presence was instrumental in establishing the area as a popular destination for artists. Champney's landscapes of the region depict its scenery with the affection, grandeur, and attention to detail characteristic of the Hudson River School. Painterly and often intimate, the flower paintings from later years of his career deviate from the hard literalism common in mid-century American still life. Champney's autobiography, Sixty Years' Memories of Art and Artists (1900), remains an important source of information about nineteenth-century art life. He died in Woburn.
A distant cousin, James Wells Champney (1843–1903), was a painter, printmaker, illustrator, and amateur photographer. Born in Boston, he trained in Europe and specialized in genre scenes but also painted landscapes and portraits. He made his home for many years in Deerfield, Massachusetts, but died in New York, where he also maintained a studio. Benjamin's nephew Edwin Graves Champney (1842–99) also worked as a landscape painter. Born in Boston, he remained a lifelong resident of the area. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and later studied in Europe.