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.