“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, trace their descent to First Nations peoples and European settlers. The government has recognized them 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.
French Louisiana was an administrative district of New France. Under French control 1682 to 1762 and 1801 to 1803, the area was named in honor of King Louis XIV.
It originally covered an expansive territory that included most of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River. It stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.
The U.S. state of Louisiana is named for the historical region, although it is only a small part of the vast lands claimed by France.
As a result of France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War, France was forced to cede the east part of the territory in 1763 to the British. In the western region, territory went to Spain as compensation for Spain losing Florida.
France regained sovereignty of the area of the west in the secret Third Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800.
But strained by obligations in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte sold the land to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, ending France’s presence in Louisiana.
The Métis are members of ethnic groups that trace their descent to both indigenous North Americans and European settlers. Originally the term applied to French-speaking mixed-race families.
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.
Luminism Art Style
The Luminism Art Style is an American landscape painting style of the 1850s – 1870s, characterized 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 an 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
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
George Caleb Bingham’s “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri”
A Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
MET European Paintings Collection
- “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon
- “Saint Jerome as Scholar” by El Greco
- “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
- “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet
- “View of Toledo” by El Greco
- “The Musicians” by Caravaggio
- “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Young Woman Drawing” by Marie-Denise Villers
- “The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)” by Claude Monet
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
- “The Fortune Teller” by Georges de La Tour
- “The Allegory of Faith” by Johannes Vermeer
- “Garden at Sainte-Adresse” by Claude Monet
- “Wheat Field with Cypresses” by Vincent van Gogh
- “The Repast of the Lion” by Henri Rousseau
- “The Horse Fair” by Rosa Bonheur
- “Two Men Contemplating the Moon” by Caspar David Friedrich
- “Boy with a Greyhound” by Paolo Veronese
- “A Windy Day on the Pont des Arts” by Jean Béraud
- “Sunday at the Church of Saint-Philippe-du-Roule, Paris” by Jean Béraud
- “The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning” by Camille Pissarro
- “The Sorrow of Telemachus” by Angelica Kauffman
MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection
- “Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II)” by Wassily Kandinsky
- “Jeanne Hébuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne
- “Bathers” by Paul Cézanne
MET American Wing Collection
- “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze
- “Portrait of Madame X” by John Singer Sargent
- “Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt
- “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” by George Caleb Bingham
- “The Gulf Stream” by Winslow Homer
- “The Parthenon” by Frederic Edwin Church
- “The Aegean Sea” by Frederic Edwin Church
- “Alexander Hamilton” by John Trumbull
- “Lady at the Tea Table” by Mary Cassatt
George Caleb Bingham, The Missouri Artist
“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) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons