George Caleb Bingham Famous Paintings

12 George Caleb Bingham Famous Paintings

These are the 12 most famous paintings by George Caleb Bingham.

George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) was an American artist known for his compelling depictions of life along the frontier and the Missouri River during the 19th century. Born in Augusta County, Virginia, Bingham moved to Missouri as a child, and it was in this region that he developed a deep connection to the people and landscapes that would feature prominently in his art.

Bingham’s early career took various turns. Initially trained as a portrait painter, he later studied in Philadelphia and Düsseldorf, Germany, broadening his artistic skills. However, it was his return to Missouri in the 1840s that marked a significant shift in his subject matter. Bingham began to focus on scenes of everyday life in the American West, capturing the spirit of the frontier.

One of Bingham’s most famous works is Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845), which exemplifies his commitment to portraying the people and activities of the region authentically. This painting, depicting traders on a riverboat, showcases his attention to detail, vibrant colors, and ability to convey the nuances of daily life.

Bingham was not only an artist but also a prominent figure in Missouri politics. He served in the Missouri House of Representatives and the state senate, reflecting his deep engagement with the issues of his time. His experiences in politics likely influenced his choice of subjects, as seen in paintings like Stump Speaking (1853-54), where he portrayed a political gathering.

Despite his artistic success, Bingham faced financial challenges and struggled to achieve widespread recognition during his lifetime. However, his legacy has grown over the years, and today he is celebrated as one of the foremost American genre painters of the 19th century. Bingham’s ability to capture the vitality and character of the American frontier contributes to his enduring influence on American art history. His works can be found in major museums, and his impact on the artistic representation of the American West is considered significant.

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845)

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri depicts three diverse fur traders navigating the Missouri River. The painting captures the multicultural aspects of the American frontier, portraying figures of French, Native American, and possibly African descent. Bingham’s work symbolizes the dynamic and changing nature of the mid-19th-century frontier.

The Verdict of the People (1854–1855)

The Verdict of the People portrays a political scene during an election. The painting captures the tension and excitement as citizens cast their votes.

General Ewing’s Order No. 11 of 1863 (1868)

General Order No. 11, issued by Union General Thomas Ewing Jr. during the Civil War in 1863, mandated the evacuation of rural areas in Missouri suspected of supporting Confederate guerrillas. The order, aimed at quelling guerrilla warfare, forced residents to leave within 15 days, allowing the destruction of homes and confiscation of property.

Its harsh implementation led to the displacement of civilians, causing lasting hardship. While intended to curb Confederate sympathies, Order No. 11 is criticized for its severity and impact on innocent civilians, highlighting the complexities faced by military commanders dealing with irregular warfare and civilian populations during the conflict.

Mississippi Boatman (1850)

Mississippi Boatman depicts a solitary boatman navigating the Mississippi River. The painting captures the everyday life of a river worker, emphasizing the resilience and self-reliance of individuals in the American frontier. Bingham’s realistic portrayal reflects the artist’s commitment to documenting the social and economic realities of the time.

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851–1852)

Daniel Boone (1734–1820) was an American frontiersman and explorer. A legendary figure in American history, Boone played a key role in the westward expansion of the United States. He blazed the Wilderness Road, founded Boonesborough in Kentucky, and became a symbol of the rugged individualism of the American frontier.

The Cumberland Gap is a prominent geographic feature in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. It is a pass through the mountains, located at the intersection of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Historically significant, the gap served as a vital route for early westward expansion, particularly during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Pioneers and settlers, including Daniel Boone, utilized the Cumberland Gap as a passage through the Appalachian Mountains, allowing for easier access to the western frontier. It played a crucial role in the westward movement, connecting the eastern and western regions of the United States.

Boatmen on the Missouri (1846)

Boatmen on the Missouri portrays a group of boatmen navigating the tumultuous waters of the Missouri River. The painting captures the challenges and dynamism of river life in the American West during the mid-19th century. Bingham’s composition highlights the physical prowess and camaraderie of these frontier workers.

Jolly Flatboatmen (1846)

Jolly Flatboatmen is lively scene of flatboatmen, or barge workers, celebrating on the deck of a flatboat. The painting captures the exuberance and camaraderie of these river workers on the Mississippi. Bingham’s composition reflects the vitality of frontier life and the social interactions along America’s waterways in the mid-19th century.

Portrait of Vinnie Ream (1876)

Vinnie Ream (1847–1914) was an American sculptor known for her historic achievement as the first woman to receive a federal government commission for a statue. In 1866, at the age of 18, she was commissioned to sculpt a marble statue of Abraham Lincoln. Her work, “Lincoln,” now stands in the U.S. Capitol. Ream continued her artistic career, creating other notable pieces and receiving acclaim for her contributions to American sculpture. Beyond her artistic accomplishments, she was a trailblazer for women in the arts during a time when such opportunities were rare, paving the way for future generations.

Raftsmen Playing Cards (1847)

Here we see a group of raftsmen engaged in a casual card game on a makeshift raft. The painting captures a moment of leisure during the arduous work of navigating the river.

The Wood-boat (1850)

The Wood-boat features a wood-boat with laborers transporting timber. The painting captures the industrious activity of the workers as they navigate the river, emphasizing the importance of river transportation for the timber industry in the mid-19th-century American West.

Stump Speaking (1853–1854)

Here we see a political gathering or speech in a rural setting, commonly referred to as “stump speaking” in 19th-century America. The painting captures the democratic spirit of American politics, showcasing citizens engaging in public discourse. This composition reflects the grassroots nature of political involvement during this period, emphasizing civic engagement and democratic ideals.

The County Election (1852)

The County Election portrays a bustling scene of a rural election in mid-19th-century America. The painting captures the democratic process with citizens participating in voting, socializing, and engaging in political discussions. Bingham painted a sister painting, titled Couny Polititian

What famous paintings by George Caleb Bingham do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.

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