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“The Verdict of the People” by George Caleb Bingham


George Caleb Bingham - The Verdict of the People

“The Verdict of the People” by George Caleb Bingham

“The Verdict of the People” by George Caleb Bingham is the last painting of Bingham’s Election Series. This painting depicts the end of the story represented in the series by showing the electoral process’s climax and the announcement of the election results.

Bingham depicts a densely crowded scene conveying the diversity of the voting populace in detail. Bingham also references the political issues of slavery, temperance, and a representative government, subjects that were of local and national relevance.

During the early 1850s, the temperance movement was growing, and more states were abolishing alcohol. A popular book at the time associated the cause of anti-slavery to that of temperance.

Bingham showed his view on intemperance and slavery by painting a banner that said, “Freedom for Virtue” and  “Restriction for Vice.” The banner referred to temperance by saying that vice and alcohol would need to be restricted for the people to be free.

“The Verdict of the People” shows the men gathered in the street to express both triumph and disappointment in the election results.

Women who were not yet allowed to vote in Bingham’s time look on from a balcony in the top right. Comedic elements and different narrative details have been included in the composition to appealed to the broader American national interest in life on the frontier.

The Election Series by George Caleb Bingham comprises three paintings:

The Verdict of the People

  • Title:                    The Verdict of the People
  • Artist:                   George Caleb Bingham
  • Date:                    1854
  • Medium:               Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:         116.8 × 139.7 cm (45.9 × 55 ″)
  • 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 westward extension of slavery.

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


“Popularity should be no scale for the election of politicians. If it would depend on popularity, Donald Duck and The Muppets would take seats in the senate.”
– Orson Welles


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

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