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“The County Election” by George Caleb Bingham

George Caleb Bingham - The County Election

“The County Election” by George Caleb Bingham

“The County Election” by George Caleb Bingham is the first painting he made for his Election Series showing the Missouri voting process.

This painting depicts men from different social classes lining up the stairs to vote. A banner displays the words, “The Will of the People” and “The Supreme Law,” a credo that had significant meaning for George Caleb Bingham.

Bingham believed that every man should have the right to vote because the people’s will should be the supreme law.

Bingham chose to depict the scene outside in the open rather than behind the government’s curtains to represent universal suffrage. Bingham believed that people had a right to share their ideas.

He also thought that he lost his seat in the legislature in 1846 due to the improper following of the people’s will. A mill in the painting background provides a reference to a Whig candidate who used a mill as a political symbol.

The cedar barrels echo a different Whig candidate who used cedar barrels as his political symbol.

Bingham (1811 – 1879) was an American artist and politician. Initially a Whig, he was elected as a delegate to the Missouri legislature before the American Civil War.

The Whigs emerged in the 1830s in opposition to President Andrew Jackson.

During that Civil War, although born in Virginia, Bingham was dedicated to the Union cause and became captain of a volunteer company, which helped keep the state from joining the Confederacy, and then served four years as Missouri’s Treasurer.

During his final years, Bingham also served as Missouri’s Adjutant General.

The painting is full of narrative details of individual stories; for example, Bingham showed two men flipping a coin beneath a judge. The two people represent the ex-governor bet that he had placed on the election of Bingham versus his opponent.

The Election Series by George Caleb Bingham comprises three paintings:

The County Election

  • Title:                     The County Election
  • Artist:                   George Caleb Bingham
  • Date:                    1852
  • Medium:              Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:         Height: 38″ (96.5 cm); Width: 52″ (132 cm)
  • Museum:              Saint Louis Art Museum

George Caleb Bingham

George Caleb Bingham (1811 – 1879) was an American artist, soldier, and politician. He was elected as a delegate to the Missouri legislature before the American Civil War, where he fought the extension of slavery westward.

During that war, although born in Virginia, Bingham was dedicated to the Union cause. He became captain of a volunteer company, which helped keep the state from joining the Confederacy and then served four years as Missouri’s Treasurer.

During his final years, Bingham held several offices in Kansas City.

His paintings of American frontier life along the Missouri River exemplify the Luminist style. However, as an artist, Bingham’s reputation languished by the turn of the century.

In 1934, the St. Louis Art Museum held a retrospective exhibition of his work, and interest in his art increased. Art historians noticed his depictions of ordinary people from the middle of the previous century, as better known, and appreciation of his work grew.

By the early 2000s, Bingham was considered one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century. Over twenty newly discovered paintings by Bingham have been authenticated with the increased interest in his art.

George Caleb Bingham

George Caleb Bingham

The County Election, by George Caleb Bingham

~~~

“I was losing interest in politics
when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again.
What I have done since then is pretty well known.”
– Abraham Lincoln

~~~


Photo Credit: 1) George Caleb Bingham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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