The Bingham paintings

Kansas City Daily Journal, March 25, 1893.


On March 25 there was a sale of several paintings by George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) in Kansas City. In the story in the Journal he is referred to as General Bingham, since he served in 1875 as Missouri's adjutant general, though during the civil war he was a captain in the U.S. Volunteer Reserve Corps.

Despite siding with the Union, his most famous painting, mentioned in this story, is "Order No. 11," a large canvas which expresses Bingham's outrage over the draconian order by a Union general expelling from Western Missouri anyone who could not prove loyalty to the Union.

KC Daily Journal March 25 1893 p 3
Kansas City Daily Journal March 25 1893 p. 3
order-no-11

Also included in the auction were "The Jolly Flatboat Men" (1846)  and "The County Election" (incorrectly identified as "The Count of the Election"), two canvases which are still among the best known of Bingham's works. The story in the Journal remarks of the former painting that "the coloring is quite good."
jolly_flatboatmen
Daily-Journal-March26-p2
Kansas City Daily Journal March 26 1893 p. 2

Proceeds from the sale of the paintings were to go to the home for Confederate veterans in Higginsville, Missouri, but the results, according to the next day's Daily Journal article, were disappointing. 

"Order No. 11," valued by Bingham himself at more than $10,000, went for $675, "The Jolly Flatboatmen" for $200.

It took a generation for Bingham to begin to be recognized as one of the great painters of the nineteenth century. In 1987 "The Jolly Flatboatmen" sold for the highest price ever paid for a work by an American artist: $6 million. It is now in the National Gallery of Art.