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“Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” by George Caleb Bingham

George Caleb Bingham 001

“Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” by George Caleb Bingham

“Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” by George Caleb Bingham is one of his most famous paintings, originally entitled, “French Trader, Half-breed Son”. It reflects the reality of fur trappers and traders frequently marrying Native American women. In Canada, the ethnic Métis people, who trace their descent to First Nations peoples and European settlers, have been recognised by the government as a distinct group with a status similar to First Nations. The painting recalls a foundation era in American history, especially with the liberty cap worn by the older man and a cub seated at the end of the boat, secured by a chain.

George Caleb Bingham’s paintings of American life in the frontier lands along the Missouri River shows the Luminist style. Bingham’s work was rediscovered in the 1930s, and by the time of his bicentennial in 2011, he was considered one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century. With his increased popularity, twenty-three newly discovered paintings by Bingham have been authenticated.

Luminism Art Style

The Luminism Art Style is an American landscape painting style of the 1850s – 1870s, characterised by a focus on the effects of light in landscapes and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky. Luminism is distinguished by attention to detail and the hiding of brushstrokes, in contrast, to Impressionism which is marked by less focus on details and an emphasis on noticeable brushstrokes


  • Does this painting recall a foundation era in American history?
  • Are the mixed-race unions between First Nations people and colonial-era European settlers, usually indigenous women and settler men, any different to the mixed-race unions throughout history?

Explore the American Wing Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

  • Title:                Fur Traders Descending the Missouri
  • Originally:    French Trader, Half-breed Son.
  • Artist:             George Caleb Bingham
  • Date:               1845
  • Medium:       Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  73.5 × 93 cm (28.9 × 36.6 in)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

George Caleb Bingham

  • Name:           George Caleb Bingham
  • Born:             1811 – Augusta County, Virginia
  • Died:              1879 (aged 68) – Kansas City, Missouri
  • Nationality:  American
  • Movement:   Luminism
  • Notable works:
    • Fur Traders Descending the Missouri


“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
– William Shakespeare


Photo Credit: 1)  [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons