George Caleb Bingham in Arrow Rock

Arguably one of America’s greatest painters, George Caleb Bingham, historically called “The Missouri Artist”, “Frontier Painter of Missouri” and “River Portraitist”, lived and worked in Arrow Rock during the first half of the 19th century. While he traveled almost constantly to paint portraits, to establish studios, or to study more about painting techniques (he was virtually self-taught), he maintained close ties in Arrow Rock from 1837 to his death in 1879.

In 1836 Bingham married Sarah Elizabeth Hutchinson of Boonville and in July of 1837 he purchased Lot 14 of Block 3 in Arrow Rock from future governor Claiborne Fox Jackson. Bingham built his Federal-style brick house, which remains on this site today, is a National Historic Landmark, and is open on tour.

A trip to Philadelphia in 1838 proved to be a benchmark in Bingham’s artistic development. Here he first saw genre art at the Academy of Fine Arts. He fell for this style, the painting of realistic scenes of everyday life.

While he followed his passion for art, he also showed an interest in politics that grew over time and many of his famous genre pieces such as Canvassing for a Vote, Stump Speaking, The County Election and Verdict of the People documented the political atmosphere of 19th century Missouri. Arrow Rock served as the backdrop for many of these works and Arrow Rock residents appeared in them.

Life and commerce on the river also proved to be the subject of many of his genre works such as Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, Jolly Flatboatmen, Raftsmen Playing Cards, and Fishing on the Mississippi.

Order No. 11, a painting depicting the forced evacuation of Western Missouri during the Civil War, captured the turmoil of this tragic period of history.

Artist George Caleb Bingham held many jobs during his lifetime: state legislator, company captain in the Union Army, State Treasurer, president of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, Adjutant General of Missouri, and the first professor of art at the University of Missouri in Columbia. During his prolific career, George Caleb Bingham traveled far and wide, but he returned often to Arrow Rock to be with family, to gather subject matter, to paint and to rest.

Read more about George Caleb Bingham and Bingham’s Missouri at:

Canvassing for a Vote

The County Election

Fur Trader Descending the Missouri