biography of George Caleb BINGHAM (1811-1879)

Birth place: Augusta County, VA

Death place: Kansas City, MO

Addresses: Primarily St. Louis, MO

Profession: Genre, portrait, history, and, occasionally, landscape painter

Studied: PAFA (1837); Düsseldorf (1856-58,1859)

Exhibited: PAFA; NAD; Washington Art Association; Brooklyn AA, 1874

Work: NMAA; MMA; St. Louis Art Mus.; Boatmen's National Bank; BMFA; Houston Mus. FA; Denver Art Mus., Brooklyn Mus.; Cincinnati AM; Detroit IA; NAD; Peabody Mus., Harvard Univ.; PAFA; Norton AG, Shreveport, LA; MO Hist. Soc; Wash. Univ., St. Louis, MO; Wash. AA, St. Louis, MO

Comments: One of America"s master genre painters, he is best remembered for his captivating scenes of western life. Bingham moved with his family to Missouri in 1819. He began painting portraits about 1833 and after a period of study in Philadelphia worked as a portraitist in Wash., DC, 1840-44. In 1845, he returned to Missouri and began painting the scenes of western life for which he is best known. Among these were Fur Traders Descending the Missouri," 1845, and "The Jolly Flatboatman," 1846. These were followed by a series of satirical treatments of political life, including "The County Election," 1852. His genre scenes gained great popularity in the East, reaching a large audience as engravings distributed through the American Art-Union. Bingham went to Düsseldorf in 1856, both to study and to engage in painting several historical scenes (none survive). In 1859, he returned to St. Louis, where he turned his attention to politics, relegating his artistic energy to portraiture. In 1877, after a successful career in state politics, he became an art professor at the Univ. of Mo. at Columbia. Samuels records, "Bingham was described as small and delicate but dynamic, an excellent conversationalist married three times, and always wigged to cover baldness from measles at 19."

Sources: G&W; Rusk, George Caleb Bingham, The Missouri Artist; DAB; Christ-Janer, George Caleb Bingham of Missouri; [Bingham,] "Letters of George Caleb Bingham;" Rutledge, PA; Cowdrey, NAD; Cowdrey, AA & AAU; Washington Art Assoc. Cat., 1859; Met. Mus. Life in America; Sweet, Hudson River School; Karolik Cat.; Davidson, I, 109, 188, 191, and II, 331, 334, repros.; Shapley, "Bingham's 'Jolly Flatboatmen." More recently, see Baigell, Dictionary; P & H Samuels, 46; 300 Years of American Art, vol. 1, 149"