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Bingham Exhibit Offers Rare Look at Missouri's Master of Art

June 6, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan Daniels, 573-882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Some seldom-seen works of Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham, whose paintings are a direct reflection of Missouri culture during the 19th century, will be on display at the University of Missouri-Columbia Museum of Art and Archaeology, June 9 through Aug. 19.

The exhibit, “Exploration, Interpretation and the Works of George Caleb Bingham,” commemorates the College of Arts and Science's centennial anniversary and celebrates the Museum's 50th anniversary.

The display will give new insight into the complex character of one the first great American painters and explore the tension that accompanied Westward expansion during the 19th century. Compiling works from several collections, the exhibit will examine the wide variety of Bingham's work, including his everyday scenes, portraits and allegorical subjects.

On display will be Major Dean in Jail, one of Bingham's most unusual works, which was painted over a photograph and focuses on the separation of church and state.

“On first glance, his picture of life in 19th-century Missouri appears harmless; however, a closer look at Bingham's work reveals that picture to be a mirage,” said guest curator Kristin Schwain, assistant professor of art history and archaeology in the college. Implicit in Bingham's paintings are the tensions that permeated American life during that time: dynamic changes in gender relations, ethnic conflict and the advance of modern technology and strife that led to the Civil War.

Along with the uniqueness of the collection, MU students and faculty will provide their own panels interpreting Bingham's oil paintings.

“I hope this exhibit will give people different ways of seeing Bingham and his works,” said Alex Barker, director of the museum. “Both Bingham and the works collected here reflect the many facets and contradictions of Missouri during his time.”

Bingham, MU's first professor of art, was mostly self-educated and supported himself for much of his career by painting portraits. He is widely known for paintings of fur traders, boatmen and settlers, as well as images of the political process in rural areas. MU acquired many Bingham paintings that were later lost in an 1892 fire that destroyed the main academic building on campus. In 1910, the University mounted one of the largest recorded exhibitions of Bingham's work.

Bingham Exhibit

General Information:
June 9 through Aug. 19
9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday
Noon to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
Ninth Street and University Avenue, MU Campus


  • Captured by Indians, Saint Louis Art Museum
  • Belated Wayfarers, Saint Louis Art Museum
  • The Concealed Enemy, Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas
  • The Dull Story, Saint Louis Art Museum
  • Portrait of Miss Vinnie Ream, Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, Wis.
  • Portrait of Miss Vinnie Ream, State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia
  • Major Dean in Jail, William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.
  • Portrait of James Madison Gordon, MU Museum of Art and Archaeology
  • Portrait of Thomas Withers Nelson, MU Museum of Art and Archaeology
  • Portrait of Thomas Miller, State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia
  • Original engraving plate for Martial Law, or Order No. 11, State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia
  • Hand-colored engraving of Martial Law, or Order No. 11, State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia
  • Copy by W.F. Hardy of Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap, City of Columbia