In the mid-1800s Missouri was evolving from a rude frontier environment to a modern state. And capturing on canvas both the wilderness and advancing civilization was painter George Caleb Bingham.
Bingham (1811-1879) - portrayed by actor Robert Gibby Brand - returns for the Library's popular Meet the Past series on Tuesday, August 7, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Truman Memorial Building, 416 Maple St., Independence.
Conducting the interview is library director Crosby Kemper III. The program will be taped by KCPT for later broadcast.
The self-taught artist came to Missouri as a child, settling with his family in Franklin. When he was nine Bingham met famed portraitist Chester Harding, an encounter that left a powerful impression.
Initially young Bingham considered careers in cabinet making, the ministry, and law. But by age 19 he was painting portraits for $20 apiece, and thereafter he devoted himself to art and becoming one of the great American genre painters of the 19th century.
Bingham operated a studio in St. Louis. Among his early major paintings were the iconic "Fur Traders Descending the Missouri" depicting two frontiersmen in a canoe, "The Jolly Boatmen," and "Stump Speaking," one of many works depicting rural politics.
His large canvas "General Order No. 11" depicted the depredations inflicted by federal troops on civilians in Western Missouri, who in 1863 were forced to abandon their homes as part of the army's war with Confederate guerillas. Bingham, a Kansas City resident and a supporter of the Union cause, called the order "an act of imbecility" and purportedly warned Union Gen. Thomas Ewing: "If you execute this order, I shall make you infamous with pen and brush."
Bingham enjoyed a political career, being elected to the Missouri General Assembly in 1848. He was appointed Missouri State Treasurer during the Civil War. Later he became president of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and Adjutant-General of Missouri. He also was the first professor of art at the University of Missouri.
Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre veteran Robert Gibby Brand, who portrays Bingham, played Edgar Snow at a previous Meet the Past event. This spring Brand portrayed Henry Higgins in the Library's Script-in-Hand production of My Fair Lady.
Admission is free. RSVP online or call 816.701.3407. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the program.
Major funding for this season of Meet the Past has been provided by the Courtney S. Turner Charitable Trust, Ken and Cindy McClain, and the J. B. Reynolds Foundation.