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Thursday, 21 April 2011 01:12

Bingham@200: A Bicentennial Celebration

This year is the bicentennial of George Caleb Bingham’s (1811–1879) birth (Fig. 1). Born on March 20, 1811, in Virginia, Bingham came to central Missouri with his family in 1819.1 Living first in Franklin and then Arrow Rock, Bingham demonstrated an early ability with drawing. He followed a typical path of apprenticeship for young men of his generation, in his case, to cabinetmakers who also served as Methodist ministers. Although he had no formal training, by the early 1830s he was pursuing a career as a portraitist across Missouri. Frequent visits to—and later studios in—St. Louis exposed Bingham to a nascent art culture before his first trip to the East Coast in 1838, when his artistic ambitions inspired a trip that year to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and likely New York. He was a resident in Washington, D.C. between 1840 and 1844, and made occasional return visits to these artistic centers through the mid-1850s. After a stay in Düsseldorf, Germany, from 1856 to 1859, Bingham relocated to the Kansas City area where portraiture occupied most of his time until his death in 1879.
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