Bingham, George Caleb

Bingham, George Caleb, 1811–79, American painter and politician, b. Augusta co., Va. His family moved (1819) to Missouri, which was the site of most of Bingham's activities. In 1837 he studied for a short time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. From 1856 to 1859 he traveled in Europe, studying at Düsseldorf for a time. Journeys on the Mississippi and through the South resulted in such paintings as Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845, Metropolitan Mus.); Daniel Boone Coming through the Cumberland Gap (1851; Washington Univ., St. Louis); and Raftsmen Playing Cards (1847, St. Louis Art Mus.). While he made many commissioned portraits, various genre paintings, and landscapes, he is most acclaimed for his serene frontier images of life along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, mainly executed from 1845 to 1857, which mark him as one of America's finest 19th-century painters. Bingham entered Missouri politics with his election to the legislature in 1848 (he had been defeated in 1846); he served as state treasurer (1862–65), after a year in the Union army, and became state adjutant general in 1875. Such pictures as The Verdict of the People and Stump Speaking (Mercantile Library Association, St. Louis) reflect his interest in politics. His scenes—vigorous, interesting in composition, humorous, and faithfully representing their time and locale—were very popular in his day, and engravings from them sold widely.

See catalog and study by E. M. Bloch (2 vol., 1967, repr. 1986); N. Luarca-Shoaf and C. Barry, Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River (museum catalog, 2014).

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