The Old Print Shop

George Caleb Bingham


He was born in Augusta County, Virginia on March 20, 1811.  In 1819 he moved with his family to Franklin, Missouri.  His early education was at home, he assisted Chester Harding a portrait artist who was in Franklin looking for business.  At the age of nineteen, Bingham was painting portraits for $20 each.  In 1839 he had moved to St. Louis and opened a studio, he had built a name for himself as a portrait artist.  Living near the state capital helped bring in prominent citizens for portraits, one was James S. Rollins of Columbia Missouri who would become a close friend and patron of the artist.  

His success as a portrait painter enabled him to travel east and study art formally at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for several years.  During his stay he also He traveled to New York visiting an exhibition at the National Academy of Design.  It is believed while viewing the exhibition he saw the work of William Sidney Mount.  The inspiration to paint genre scenes inspired the artist to paint one of his most famous images the Jolly Flat Boatman.  The image was a huge success and the rights to engrave the painting were purchased by the American Art Union who produced a large engraving of the painting.  This event proved very successful for the artist and he continued produced images for engravings.  He is considered one of the finest Missouri painters before the twentieth-century.