published by The State Historical Society of Missouri and Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc.
Edited by Lynn Wolf Gentzler, with an introduction by Joan Stack, and compiled by Roger E. Robinson
George Caleb Bingham, who earned the sobriquet of “the Missouri artist,” evolved from a locally known portrait painter to an artist of national renown. The 246 letters in this volume illuminate the complex personality of a man actively involved in the political, social, and cultural life of nineteenth-century America.
The majority of the letters were written to Bingham’s close friend James S. Rollins, a wealthy mid-Missouri lawyer, politician, and father of the University of Missouri. In these letters, the artist-cum-politician describes his work on paintings and discusses political issues and candidates of the day. Letters to family members reveal the ties between Bingham and his mother, siblings, and first two wives. The volume also includes letters written for publication in newspapers and official letters and reports written during Bingham’s term as adjutant general, 1875-76. The public letters chronicle Bingham’s compassion for and work on behalf of Missourians who suffered during the Civil War and describe the unrest that beset parts of the state long after the struggle’s end.
In a fascinating introduction, Joan Stack focuses on Bingham’s artistic career. She finds that much of his reputation in the nineteenth century derived from the genre and political paintings of the 1840s and 1850s, particularly those from which prints were made and widely distributed.
Readers interested in nineteenth-century Missouri will find these letters from the pen of an artist who maintained a keen connection to the political affairs of his time truly engaging.
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