The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

March 20, 2016

March 20, 1811

George Caleb Bingham (March 20, 1811 to July 7, 1879), the American painter, left us portraits that  capture an  America in transition. A recent exhibition of his work (2015) prompted this Jstor analysis, authored by one Matthew Wills.


George Caleb Bingham’s “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” is arguably his most famous painting. Its original title was “French Trader & Half Breed Son,” a reminder of those Frenchmen who explored the interior of North American long before other Europeans.

The painting is one of the most popular in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

While precisely situating Bingham and his work in the invention of “Western regionalism,” Angela Miller also has an idea of why this particularly painting remains so popular. It’s a “particularly poignant image of the antebellum West, suffused with longing for a maternal and encompassing wilderness purged of the human violence that so often accompanied settlement.” People also seem to really like the black “cat” in the bow of the boat, and are usually surprised to discover that it’s actually a baby bear.

.... In addition to being an artist, which didn’t pay all that well, Bingham was active in the Whig Party: he won a term to the Missouri legislature in 1848 after being cheated out of a close election in 1846.


Bingham combined his differing interests with paintings titled “Stump Speaking,” “The County Election,” and the “Verdict of the People.” These political canvases, [were] all painted in the 1850s....

My impression has always been that there was no scholarly consensus about the  species of animal in the boat.  Some have said it was a fox. 

Image result for Bingham Fur Traders


Species besides the people of course.

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