Mini Biography: George Caleb Bingham

Birth: March 20, 1811
Death: July 7, 1879
Nationality: American
Movement: Luminism
Born in Virginia, Bingham’s family moved to Missouri, which was then the western edge of the American frontier, when he was 7 or 8. He was apprenticed to two separate Methodist cabinet makers in his teens and briefly considered becoming a lawyer or a preacher before pursuing art. In 1848, while becoming a well-known portrait painter, Bingham served in the lower court of the Missouri State Legislature. He would later hold other elected positions in Missouri as well. Bingham’s genre paintings of life on the frontier contain landscape elements that are typical of the Luminist movement with compositions dominated by sky, calm water, and light filled details. The people inhabiting his paintings were based off of individuals in his large collection of figurative drawings. Widely known as “The Missouri Artist” Bingham was the first Professor of Art at the University of Missouri and the home he occupied early in his career is a National Historic Landmark.
Some of Bingham’s notable works include: Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845), The Jolly Flatboatmen (1846) and Canvassing for a Vote (1851-1852).  The Jolly Flatboatmen, easily Bingham’s best known painting, is below.


For more information about Bingham or to see more of his artwork visit:
The State Historical Society of Missouri
The New York Times
The George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings