Hall of Fame inductees are the pioneers, explorers and artists in America's river history. They were movers and shakers from the days gone by and the recent past. These men and women made significant contributions related to America’s rivers, which is why we honor them.
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Inducted in 1988
George Caleb Bingham was a frontier river artist noted for his landscapes and scenes of life on the Mississippi River. Bingham had a technical facility for painting that he developed over a remarkably short space of time. After only a few months of training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he traveled to Europe and around the United States before settling in Missouri.
In the 1830’s Bingham was producing rather wooden portraits but, by 1845, his style had developed to such an extent that his work was unrecognizable. Raftsmen Playing Cards is typical of the dreamy lyricism of Bingham’s mature work. With these paintings of North American frontier life, often of views of the Missouri River, Bingham focuses on everyday scenes.
In an age when the camera was not widely available, Bingham provides an interesting insight into his fellow citizens in Missouri and their way of life. In 1856 he followed in the footsteps of a number of other American artists choosing Düsseldorf as a place to study.
Bingham’s paintings not only preserve a legacy of America’s rivers before the steamboat era, but evoked a spirit of river life rarely captured in art.