In July, we announced our partnership with the Friends of Arrow Rock, a preservation group dedicated to saving the treasures and structures of the 19th century. Our newest announcement? Wide Awake Films is teaming up with these fine folks to chronicle the life and times of Missouri native and self-taught painter George Caleb Bingham. As we continue to dive into the research process, we’ve been pleased to discover so many interesting connections that this notable artist and notorious politician had on our home state of Missouri.
Although Bingham was not born in the Show Me State, he spent much of his life in Missouri, and artistically recorded the daily culture of the people who lived along the Missouri River in a newly minted state (circa 1820). During his 45-year career, Bingham became known throughout the United States as “The Missouri Artist” for his portrait depictions of fur-traders sailing the Missouri River, Osage Indians of the territory and well-known Missourians of the 19th century.
Bingham’s paintings and drawings offer a genuine and first-hand account of an artist who lived and observed daily life in one of the newly settled territories of the West. In his later years, Bingham moved beyond merely recording life and began directly affecting it through numerous appointments in state and local political seats. Today, Bingham’s realistic paintings continue to allow the public at large to catch a storied glimpse of the 19th century in our area of the world.
The Many Ways George Caleb Bingham Made His Mark on Missouri
- First regional Missouri Artist
- Resident of Franklin, Arrow Rock and Boonville, Missouri
- Unintentional archivist and historian of well-known 19th century Missourians (portraiture)
- President of the Kansas City, Missouri Board of Police
- First Kansas City, Missouri police chief
- Elected to the Missouri State Legislature from Saline County, Missouri
- Missouri State Treasurer
- Adjunct General of Missouri
- Public servant of the Independence Public School District Board of Education in Independence, Missouri
- First professor of Art at the University of Missouri, Columbia
- Namesake of the George Caleb Bingham Middle School in Independence, Missouri
- Buried in Kansas City, Missouri’s Union Cemetery
This life well-lived was summed up by George Caleb Bingham’s third wife, Mattie Livingston Lykins, with a quote inscribed on his memorial monument that read, “Eminently gifted, almost unaided he won such distinction in his profession that he is known as The Missouri Artist.”
A touring exhibition of Bingham’s paintings, entitled “Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River,” featuring 16 paintings and 50 preparatory drawings, is currently on display at Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
The exhibition travels next to the Saint Louis Art Museum (February 22nd through May 17th) and finally to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (June 15th through September 20th). At Wide Awake Films, we are proud to play a role in bringing the storied history of this native Missouri son to life.