Navigating the West George Caleb Bingham and the River Margaret C. Conrads, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf, Claire M. Barry, Nancy Heugh, Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, Dorothy Mahon, Andrew J. Walker, Janeen Turk, Brent R. Benjamin

Publication date:
23 Oct 2014
Other Distribution
200 pages: 279 x 267mm
174 color + 10 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


A new look at George Caleb Bingham’s iconic river paintings and his creative process in making them

George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879) moved to Missouri as a child and began painting the scenes of Missouri life for which he is now famous in the 1840s. Navigating the West explores how Bingham’s iconic river paintings reveal the cultural and economic significance of the massive Mississippi and Missouri waterways to mid-19th-century society. Focusing on the artist’s working methods and preparatory drawings, the book also explores Bingham’s representations of people and places and situates these images in a dialogue with other contemporary depictions of the region. Of particular note are two landmark essays investigating Bingham’s creative process through comparisons of infrared images of 17 of his paintings with both his preparatory drawings and the completed works, casting new light on his previously understudied process. Technical analysis of the artist’s lauded masterpiece, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, reveals Bingham’s considerable revisions to the painting. In the concluding essay, the 20th-century revival of the artist’s work is discussed within the context of American Regionalism and in light of a shifting sequence of narratives about the nation’s past and future.

Nenette Luarca-Shoaf is visiting research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. Claire Barry is director of conservation at the Kimbell Art Museum. Nancy Heugh is paper conservator and Janeen Turk is assistant curator of American art, both at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser is curator of American paintings and sculpture and Dorothy Mahon is conservator, both at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Andrew J. Walker is director and Margaret C. Conrads is deputy director of art and research, both at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Saint Louis Art Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art