Stories Behind the Portraits: The Dunnicas

Discovering History through Art Historians usually add a painting as an illustration. Fine Art Investigations uses portraits as an entry point to history.  An example is the stories behind the recently re-discovered portraits of the Dunnicas. The first part of their biography briefly described American expansion in the west after the War of 1812. Back when the Western frontier was central Missouri and …

Recto and Verso: Mary Elizabeth Hickman Rollins

Recto – George Caleb Bingham Mary Elizabeth Hickman was born in Franklin, Missouri, on October 10, 1820, the middle child of the three children of James E. Hickman and Sophia Woodson Hickman. The Bingham family arrived in Franklin from Virginia shortly before her birth. James Hickman and George Caleb Bingham’s father, Henry Vest Bingham, invested in some of the same …

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 3

The Correction Introduction This is the third of four blogs about the re-discovered George Caleb Bingham portraits of William Franklin Dunnica and Martha Jane Shackelford Dunnica. The work of E. Maurice Bloch (1925-1989), the world’s acknowledged expert on artist George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), is awe-inspiring. At the University of California Los Angeles, where he was a professor of art history, he …

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 2

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: Connoisseurship Introduction Provenance and art historical research strongly suggested that family lore was true:  George Caleb Bingham painted the heirloom portraits of William Franklin Dunnica and his wife, Martha Jane Shackelford. (See Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 1). Would connoisseurship confirm or deny that the portrait pair were rediscovered paintings by Bingham? Context According to art historical research, Bingham painted …

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 1

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: Art Historical Documentation Introduction Several years ago, images of a pair of antebellum portraits arrived in my inbox: William Franklin Dunnica and Mary Jane Shackelford (Mrs. William F. Dunnica) of Glasgow (Chariton), Missouri. I knew instantly that George Caleb Bingham was the artist. But, as a professional art investigator, I knew the accuracy of a “blink” moment always needs to be tested. …

Democratization of American Art

American Art Union Birth In New York City, in 1842, a group of patriotic entrepreneurs, who wanted to promote American art and American artists, formed the American Art-Union (AAU). The businessmen recognized the potential of improved printing technologies. Not only could books and newspapers be printed more easily and quickly, through printed reproductions, art could be as well. For an …