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Meet the Masters

Grade Five

ARTIST: PRINT:

BINGHAM, GEORGE CALEB (1811-1879)

FUR TRADERS DESCENDING THE MISSOURI METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART NEW YORK CITY

19th Century American

Date: circa 1845 Size: 29” x 36” Medium: Oil on canvas

ARTIST - George Caleb Bingham was born in the Blue Ridge mountain region of Virginia. When he was 8 years old, his family moved to Franklin, Missouri. At the age of 16, he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker in Columbia, Missouri, but he had leanings toward law and the ministry.

His decision to pursue an art career was due largely to the influence of a painter named Harding, who painted a portrait of Daniel Boone. Bingham received painting lessons from Harding. Later in St. Louis, Bingham set up his own studio and painted portraits. He left St. Louis to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Later the artist became involved in politics and he helped candidates by painting huge banners. Bingham also painted scenes including raftsmen, fur traders, hunters and frontier elections. Bingham painted a series of paintings of everyday river life and as a result he was regarded as the historian of Jacksonian democracy. His finest work was completed between 1845 and 1855.

PRINT - In Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, the figures in the dugout are beautifully silhouetted against the mist and the remote clumps of trees in the middle ground. This is a sealed- off world of men. To Easterners, Bingham's boatmen represented the untamed spirit of the West, and they eagerly bought his paintings. They must have delighted in the details of Fur Traders: the rugged scowling face under the bizarre peaked hat, the old trader paddling in the rear of the boat, and the gaudy shirts. Leaning on the well-wrapped cargo of furs is a youth with a gun with which he has just bagged a duck. Of special interest must have been the little animal chained in the bow. Is it a fox or a cat? Bingham added a great deal to our knowledge of the West at this time through his paintings of the backwoods and river life. He laid out his compositions carefully, and drew his figures from life, realistically and sometimes humorously.

PORTFOLIO A PAIRED WITH:

REMINGTON THE SCOUT

195

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