Stories Behind the Paintings: The Mill Boy, 1844, Part 2

The Mill Boy by George Caleb Bingham was painted in 1844 shortly after the artist returned from four years on the east coast. There he had been exposed to the work of many artists. An especially popular piece was Thomas Sully’s The Torn Hat, 1820. Bingham biographer E. Maurice Bloch recognized the similarities between The Torn Hat and The Mill Boy. Using the same relaxed composition, Bingham portrayed his cousin’s husband, John A. Trigg, also in 1844. The Mill Boy and Trigg illustrate Bingham’s transition from portraiture to genre, specifically in the third boatman, in the painting, Missouri Boatmen, that Bingham sent to the American Art-Union in May 1846. The de Young Museum of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco now owns Missouri Boatmen.

Thomas Sully (1783-1872), The Torn Hat, 1820, MFA

Thomas Sully (1783-1872), The Torn Hat, 1820
Oil on Canvas, 19 x 15 inches
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts. 16.104

George Caleb Bingham, The Mill Boy, 1844 (137) (Detail)

George Caleb Bingham, The Mill Boy, 1844
Oil on Canvas, 37 x 46 inches
Private Collection (Detail)

George Caleb Bingham, John A. Trigg

George Caleb Bingham, John A. Trigg, ca. 1844
Oil on Canvas, 30 inches x 25 inches
Private Collection

George Caleb Bingham, Boatmen on the Missouri, 1846
Oil on Canvas, 25 x 30 inches
Fine Art Museums of San Francisco


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About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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