Arader Galleries


Americana Prints

[BINGHAM, George Caleb] (1811-1879) The Jolly Flat Boat Men

[BINGHAM, George Caleb] (1811-1879) The Jolly Flat Boat Men


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Published by New York: Printed by Powell & Co., 1847

The Jolly Flat Boat Men (engraved by Thomas Doney). New York: Printed by Powell & Co., 1847 Hand-colored mezzotint on wove paper (Image: 21 x 24 in.; 53.8 x 60.8 cm. Sheet: 22 3/4 x 26 3/4 in.; 57.8 x 68.0 cm), captioned "From the Original Painting Distributed by the American Art Union 1857 | Published exclusively for the Members of that Year." Matted. Expertly closed four-inch tear at center of bottom margin, just touching three letters in caption and extending to the base of the flat boat, minor tear at center of left margin. (65B2B) Known as "the Missouri Artist" in his lifetime, Bingham was one of the most important painters of genre subjects in the mid-19th century. His early years were spent in Missouri, and he knew at first hand the life of the frontier, especially the comings and goings of the boatmen who ferried cargo on the great rivers of the Midwest. His scenes of life and work on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers established his reputation and are today recognized as his finest creations. Intended for audiences in eastern cities such as New York and Philadelphia, his paintings portrayed boatmen as the rough-hewn characters who were instrumental in pushing the American frontier ever farther westward. In 1847, the American Art-Union, which had purchased The Jolly Flatboatmen (1846) directly from the artist, produced a large mezzotint of it that was distributed to its members (approximately 10,000) throughout the country, immediately making it one of the best known and treasured icons of American art. It depicts a group of boatmen who, after a day of hard work on the river, are now relaxing and dancing to a lively tune played on a fiddle and an impromptu percussive instrument in the form of a pan. Bingham's attention to detail is everywhere evident: a raccoon pelt hanging from a nail; a coil of rope; a shirt hanging to dry; and a turkey, which pokes its head out between the slats of the crate below the dancing man. The composition is at once dynamic-with the exuberance of the dancing man and the gusto of the musicians-as well as visually concise in the way Bingham arranged the figures to form a well-balanced triangle.Dr. Lester E. Bauer of Detroit, Michigan, (his sale, Parke-Bernet, 27 October 1971, lot 6; Evelyn and Eric P. Newman, of Clayton, Missouri (letters from the First Street Forum, St. Louis, Missouri dated 23 September 1981 and the Mid-America Arts Alliance dated 10 October 1983 regarding the loan of the print for exhibition; and their sale, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, 12 November 2018, lot 24). EXHIBITED: Bingham on the River, First Street Forum, 1981; Bingham's World, Mid-America Art Alliance, 1983.

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