Learn about one of Missouri\'s most important historical figures

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COLUMBIA — The State Historical Society of Missouri is offering a free opportunity to learn about a key figure in Missouri and the United States’ histories.

George Caleb Bingham was a successful artist and politician who would go on to become treasurer of Missouri and the first professor of art at the University of Missouri.

Most of Bingham’s work portrays the American West, especially life on the frontier lands along the Missouri River, and some of his art is on display at the White House.

“He is an important American figure. He is somebody who documented visually the American west, he documented the civil war, and he also participated in all of these things. He served in the government of Missouri. So he is a politician, an artist, just an active person in the 19th century, so he really helps us understand history,” said Joan Stack, Curator of Art Collections at the State Historical Society of Missouri.

A movie about Bingham, The American Artist: The Life and Times of George Caleb Bingham, will make its Columbia debut on December 3rd at 1:30 p.m. at Jesse Wrench Auditorium in Memorial Union on MU’s campus. The film includes narration by Emmy-nominated actor Keith David, and Grammy award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma is featured on the soundtrack.

The film offers a look at Bingham’s life along with interviews with museum staff that are knowledgeable about the art Bingham created.

Charles E. Valier, a Missouri lawyer, will give a lecture about Bingham and his art at 10 a.m. before the film premiere at the State Historical Society of Missouri’s Main Gallery Research Center. Charles E. Valier, along with the help of former governor Kit Bond, raised money to save Bingham’s art from being auctioned off separately.

“Here is an artist who is incredibly important nationally who is from this place, and documents this place, and does imagery about this place, and he makes it something that epitomizes America,” Stack said. “He uses Missouri as his subject to say something about the American experience.”

A gallery of George Caleb Bingham’s work is open to the public at the State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia.

Tickets to the lecture and film premiere are free, but people are asked to RSVP at www.shmo.org.