George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879)

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Bingham, Fur Traders on Missouri River, 1845

Fur Traders on Missouri River, 1845

George Caleb Bingham was an American painter known for his scenes of the Western frontier. Bingham was born in Virginia on his grandfather’s farm but moved to Missouri Territory with his family at a young age.

At this time French and English settlers as well as Osage Indians inhabited the land. The Bingham family opened an inn called The Square and Compass. At the inn Bingham met Chester Harding, one of America’s greatest portraitists. Harding had been painting a portrait of the legendary folk hero, Daniel Boone.

Bingham was interested in working as an artist and assisted Harding with his portraits. Bingham was able to study alongside Harding, viewing his many studies and sketches. In 1823, when Bingham’s father died, his mother moved the family to a farm across the river called Arrow Rock. During this period of time Bingham learned to be a woodworker, working under Reverand Jesse Green.

Bingham returned to working with the painter Chester Harding, who strongly encouraged him to pursue his interest in art. Bingham was given his first artist materials from Harding and began painting portraits on his own.

Bingham, Mississippi Boatman, 1850

Mississippi Boatman, 1850

Bingham departed from portraiture and started painting genre scenes of life in the Western frontier. Bingham’s paintings often documented commerce along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and communities around St. Louis, Boonville and Kansas City.

Bingham, Ferrymen Playing Cards, oil on canvas by George Caleb Bingham, c. 1847

Ferrymen Playing Cards, oil on canvas by George Caleb Bingham, c. 1847

Bingham also made historical paintings depicting scenes from the American Revolution and ongoing political uprisings. Bingham became known as “The Missouri Artist” as word of his talent and spread throughout the western region. Bingham painted countless portraits of people in Missouri, and recorded well his state’s developing landscape.

Bingham, Stump Speech

Stump Speech

Bingham, Country Politician, 1849

Country Politician, 1849

Bingham’s paintings became iconic images of 19th century frontier life. While a concentration of Bingham’s work is in St. Louis, Missouri, his paintings are in collections across the United States. Many of Bingham’s landscapes and portraits have been lost overtime. Do you think you own a painting by George Bingham? Contact us. We are the Bingham experts.