Friday, March 30, 2007


“Family Life on the Frontier”
George Caleb Bingham
before 1845,
The Anschutz Collection, Denver

George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) is renowned today as one of the classic artists of the American West. His paintings rank among the nation’s greatest art treasures.
During a career of 45 years, from 1834 onward, Bingham was increasingly singled out as “The Missouri Artist” and he could in fact be considered the state’s first artist. In Missouri his artistic talent, initially as a portraitist, was highly regarded from the beginning of his career, a rare and encouraging position for any artist, and especially for Bingham who was self taught and self supporting and without academic or artistic connections.

“Fur Traders Descending the Missouri”
By George Caleb Bingham
1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

In 1845 Bingham began the series of narrative scenes of frontier life upon which his reputation rests. “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri”, the earliest of his masterworks, is still considered his best and most iconic painting. It is also the simplest of his multifigure scenes: it depicts a grizzled pipe-smoking fur trader, a smiling youth, and a tethered baby bear, all posed in a long thin dugout canoe. Out of the wilderness they appear, gliding silently on the placid water, gazing at you and you at them.

“The Jolly Flatboatmen”
1846, The Manoogian Collection, Taylor, Michigan

Riverboatmen, considered a rough and carefree bunch, were a more familiar sight than fur traders. In his first depiction of them—“The Jolly Flatboatmen” (1846)—Bingham showed the hard working boatmen enjoying themselves as their day began on the river. With their celebration invitingly filling most of the picture plane, the spectator glides along behind them enjoying the moment. Its vicarious joy is irresistible; its classically organized and finely crafted composition becomes for the viewer a clear and memorable image.

“The County Election”
By George Caleb Bingham
1851-52, St. Louis Art Museum

Starting in 1847 and in a more developed way in the early 1850s, Bingham began his “Election” series of paintings illustrating America’s democratic process and the political life of the Western frontier.

“Martial Law or Order No.11”
By George Caleb Bingham
1869-70, Bingham was always acutely aware of the significant events in the nation’s evolving history and, on more than one occasion, he felt impelled to be something more than an armchair observer. His early self-taught training in law and his skill as a public speaker prepared him for the political arena, but it was more his deep-rooted moral convictions about right and wrong and a strong sense of public duty that stimulated him from time to time to leave his chosen career and seek public office and to work for the public good. Highlights of Bingham’s political career, not including the many times he was a candidate for public office, can be briefly summarized: 1848, elected to a seat in the Missouri state legislature as representative from Saline County; 1862-1865, during the Civil War, appointed Missouri state treasurer; 1874, appointed president of Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners; 1875, appointed adjutant-general of Missouri by the governor (which led to his being called “General Bingham” toward the end of his life).

Want to know more?

Paul C. Nagel. George Caleb Bingham, Missouri’s Famed Painter and Forgotten Politician. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, (April) 2005.

Nagel, Paul C., "The Man and His Times," in George Caleb Bingham, ed. Michael Edward Shapiro (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990).

For those people that insist on making small talk while in line at the grocery store please, please stop sharing your hammer toe operation details with me. NO, I do not, for the love of gaud, want to see you're before and after pictures! It grosses me out and thanks to you I felt nauseous all day.

For the past month I have been dealing with unexplained spikes in my blood sugar (I am a diabetic) and I have had my bipolar medications changed to correlate with the time and seasonal changes. After a series of tests my doctors found no reason for the elevated blood sugar, I finally found the culprit...Rainman. Apparently he has been adding sugar to my Crystal Light and various other drinks because “they don’t taste good to me.” Argggh! Needless to say I sat him down and explained why it was not a good idea to try and kill me with sugar. LOL! Poor kid...he felt so bad.

I am looking forward to the weekend and a possible purchase of a new more fuel efficient vehicle.

What are your plans for the weekend?

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N Posted by Rain at 3/30/2007 09:23:00 AM


  • Blogger Lyndon posted at 3:41 PM  
    Did that really happen at the grocery store? Has to be one of the weirdest things I've heard someone do.

    Glad you finally figured out why your blood sugar was spiking. Now I have to check with my father to see if he's be secretly adding sugar to things. Would explain the same problem he's having.

    As far as weekends go, it's more of the same old junk. I'm stuck in a rut.
  • Blogger Rain posted at 8:50 PM  
    Hi Lyndon,

    Yes, unfortunately the story is true. I have had many strange experiences in my lifetime.

    Thanks for stopping by!
  • Blogger jules posted at 3:09 PM  
    Poor kid, you've probably traumatized him for life...thinking he might have killed his mama! Good blackmail material though for later.
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  • Blogger Michael posted at 1:50 AM  
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