The Bingham Lady

In 2001, I wrote the words below, not knowing they would lead me to become the “Bingham Lady.”

"What I have discovered through Bingham’s portraits is a winding story that is just beginning to unfold.  By using Bingham’s portraits as guideposts, I have found an inroad to history that has charmed me and has the magic to keep me going…Art has the potential not only to make history “user friendly” but also to direct us to yet undiscovered aspects of our past."

Patricia Moss
“The Portraits of George Caleb Bingham Reveal a Different History of Greater Kansas City”
Kawsmouth: A Journal of Regional History
Kansas City Regional History Institute, University of Missouri – Kansas City
Vol. 3, No. 1, Winter- Spring 2001

I had also discovered was that many portraits were lost. So, with the help of David W. Jackson, then of the Jackson County [Missouri] Historical Society, we sent out a plea via the society’s journal.


Patricia Moss
"The Bingham Lady"


From civic-minded art collectors, word of the locations of the “lost” portraits slowly reached me. The Clay County Historical Society took the project to heart, too, and found and photographed Bingham portraits of Clay County pioneers.

I interrupted my search to attend graduate school, but possible new Bingham portraits were brought to my attention. For a class in connoisseurship, I studied one portrait  intensively. That study led to the Evolution of an Art Detective.

After earning double master’s degrees in Art History and History, I returned to the quest.  From a steady flow of possible new Bingham portraits, I learned to distinguish the work of the Missouri Artist from his students and colleagues. With each located portrait, and with the owner’s permission, I contacted the Smithsonian’s Inventory of American Paintings. In 2010 the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center published

The Bingham Lady: An Interview (link to full article)

Also in 2010, I was asked to help curate the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri, 1819-1879, at the Truman Presidential Library (March 10 – September 8, 2011). Two years later, came the moment I had spent a decade preparing for the opening of a museum devoted to George Caleb Bingham. The opening / permanent exhibit at the Truman Courthouse in Independence, Missouri, George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History questions the oft-repeated notion that the quality of Bingham’s work declined after the 1840s. The statement first appeared in the 1950s, considered only Bingham’s genre paintings, but cataloguers routinely copy it. The chronological exhibit considered the effect of Civil War and Reconstruction on Bingham, and on the people of the Midwest. Near the end of his life, Bingham portrayed himself as a puzzled witness. The exhibit posed a new question: From the perspective of the 21st century, how should we judge the artistic legacy of George Caleb Bingham?
Please Note: By choice, Fine Art Investigations is not associated in any way with the Bingham Online Catalogue Raisonné nor its sponsor, the Riverbank Foundation.