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George Caleb Bingham of Missouri was the first major American painter to work west of the Mississippi, and along with William Sidney Mount, he is considered one of the two most important American genre painters of the pre-Civil War period. Bingham's fame rests chiefly on his renditions of two subjects, frontier politics and the river life of the West. A significant collection is hosed at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.
He was a self-trained artist that had loved to draw pictures from a very young age. While Bingham was still a young boy, a portrait painter passed through his town, which inspired his developement into the great painter that he would later become. Throughout his life he painted around a thousand portraits. He also painted many river paintings, election paintings, and other genre paintings between 1845-1857.
Bingham was born near Charlottesville, Virginia and lived there until the age of eight, when his family moved to Franklin, Missouri. It was a busy river port second in the state only to St. Louis. In 1823 his father passed away, and his family could no longer afford to live in the city, so they moved to a small farmhouse in nearby Arrow Rock.
In 1834, Dr. Sappington (a local doctor noted in the treatment of malaria) noticed the talent that this young man posessed and commisioned a portrait of both him and his wife. From there, his new venture as a portrait painter began. He charged $25 per portrait in the beginning. He soon started building studios in high traffic areas such as St. Louis so he could get a lot more business. Soon, as his popularity increased, his prices rose up to a price between $40 and $50 per portrait.
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