Although his works were not really discovered until the next century, George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) was perhaps one of the two or three greatest American painters of the Nineteenth Century. His most famous work is “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” (above) with its idyllic boatmen and a bear cub—no, it’s not a cat—perched in the bow of the boat. There is not a breath of wind, and a mist hovers over the river.
Equally famous is his “Boatmen on the Missouri” (below):
Most of the best known work by Bingham comes from early in his career. After the Civil War, he went into Missouri politics as a member of the Whig party and held several offices.
Politicians are a dime a dozen, but painters like Bingham are rare. When I think of his time and place, I cannot help but see his art.