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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Missouri Artist George Caleb Bingham Moved to Franklin, MO in 1818 AP UPDATE: Painting Bought at Hermann Antique Store May Be Rare Unsigned Bingham - Missouri News

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Dealer claims unsigned paintings are by George Caleb Bingham

Written by Associated Press
Thursday, 24 March 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – The celebration of Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham's 200th birthday is being marked by the possibility that his body of work could include 10 more paintings – all unsigned – that have been discovered in recent years. Fred R. Kline, a Santa Fe art dealer and researcher, is updating online standard catalogs of Bingham's works to include the paintings of a Western scene and nine portraits. One of the standard catalogs was published in 1986 by art historian E. Maurice Bloch, who identified about 450 Bingham paintings and itemized many more that had been documented but not located, The Kansas City Star reported Monday.
Bingham was born on March 20, 1811, in Augusta County, Va. He and his family moved to Franklin, Mo., in 1818.
Kline's advisory panel of authenticators includes William Kloss, an art historian in Washington, D.C., and Paul Nagel, a noted Missouri historian and Bingham biographer.
“Like any lost art, anything can be anywhere,” Kline said of his finds. “I wish they had all been in one little collection with impeccable provenance.”
Some art historians have raised questions about Kline's conclusions.
“Since authentication involves rigorous analysis, scientific examination, which can include testing of paint samples, X-rays and infrared technologies and consensus by several connoisseurs expert in the particular artist, it will be interesting to see what evidence supports these possible discoveries,” another Bingham researcher, Patricia Moss, told The Star.
Kline responds that his authentications are based on a nearly 30-year career as a generalist art historian during which he has identified several unsigned lost or homeless paintings, drawings and sculptures.
“With Bingham, I have closely studied most of his paintings in museums,” he said. “Also, I have made countless comparative studies of images and paintings, and this enables me to expertly read a good image or photograph. It is an uncommon talent, which I have cultivated.”
Kline has posted the works he says he has authenticated as Bingham works on his website. He said they were found in private homes and for sale in various locations.
The paintings include Horse Thief, a Western scene dating to 1852, which Kline authenticated as Bingham's six years ago. The other paintings are all formal portraits, mostly of prominent Missourians – a steamboat captain, attorneys, Civil War veterans, a banker.
One of the portraits is owned by Kate McGonigal, a professor of sociology at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan. She said she found it in 2000 at an antique store in Hermann, Mo.
Kline and his panel authenticated McGonigal's painting in 2010.
“We think it is clearly by Bingham,” Kline said, “and actually one of his best portraits.”

Online: www.georgecalebbingham.com
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Unsigned Bingham paintings surprise art world

Mar. 22, 2011
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Kate McGonigal was a grad student at the University of Missouri in 2000 when she visited a Hermann, Mo., antique store with a professor friend.
An old painting caught her eye, a portrait of a woman. She liked how it appeared to show its 19th century subject as a reader and writer, rather rare, McGonigal thought, for depictions of a woman of the time.
“I had it in my little grad student apartment in Columbia,” McGonigal said the other day, “and I started noticing the detail in the woman’s dress, the lace. It’s an extremely well-executed painting.”
Now a professor of sociology at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., McGonigal developed a hunch about the maker and the subject of the unsigned, unidentified painting. And in recent months her hunch appears to have been confirmed.
Bingo. Or rather, Bingham!
As the art world pays tribute this month to the 200th birthday of George Caleb Bingham, the celebrated Missouri painter of riverboat men, politicians and monumental pictures of regional history, his body of known work may be growing.
Or, as is often the case in the sometimes contentious world of art identification, it may not be.
McGonigal’s painting is one of 10 previously unidentified artworks, a Western scene and nine portraits, ascribed to Bingham in the last few years by Fred R. Kline, a Santa Fe art dealer and researcher. Kline is publishing online updates to the standard catalogs of Bingham’s work, the second of which was published in 1986 by art historian E. Maurice Bloch. In more than four decades of work, Bloch identified about 450 Bingham paintings and itemized many more that had been documented, but never located.
Kline’s advisory panel of authenticators includes William Kloss, an independent art historian in Washington, D.C., and Paul Nagel, a noted Missouri historian and Bingham biographer.
“Like any lost art, anything can be anywhere,” Kline said of his 10 finds. “I wish they had all been in one little collection with impeccable provenance.”
Some art historians, however, have questioned Kline’s conclusions.
“Since authentication involves rigorous analysis, scientific examination, which can include testing of paint samples, X-rays and infrared technologies and consensus by several connoisseurs expert in the particular artist, it will be interesting to see what evidence supports these possible discoveries,” another Bingham researcher, Patricia Moss, told The Star.
As it turns out, Moss, a former Kansas Citian now living in Washington state, is planning to reveal the discovery of another possible “new” Bingham today in a library presentation in Independence.
For his part, Kline says he bases his authentications on a long career of looking closely at art, and sometimes, as in the case of Kate McGonigal’s picture, looking only at high-quality photographs of the art.
“I have a very experienced and well-proven eye,” he said, “and, as a generalist art historian, I have successfully used connoisseurship to identify a long list of lost or homeless paintings, drawings and sculptures (all unsigned works) for at least 30 years. With Bingham, I have closely studied most of his paintings in museums.
“Also, I have made countless comparative studies of images and paintings, and this enables me to expertly read a good image or photograph. It is an uncommon talent, which I have cultivated.”
Margi Conrads, senior curator of American art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, which owns significant Bingham scenes and portraits, recognizes that art identification can pose a minefield.
“Bingham is a good example of why attributions are really hard,” Conrads said, “particularly where an artist doesn’t sign his work. It takes a lot of looking. People come up with a lot of different opinions.”
In recent years, for example, when Conrads researched and published a new catalog of the Nelson’s American collection, she discovered she had to demote one or two portraits that had long been identified as Binghams.
The works Kline has posted as authenticated Binghams on his website ( www.georgecalebbingham.com), all unsigned, turned up in private homes and on the market here and there.
Kline announced about six years ago the discovery of a canvas called “Horse Thief,” a Western scene dating to 1852, which depicts its small human subjects in a vast landscape of buttes and stormy sky.
Along with McGonigal’s painting, the other “new” Binghams include eight more formal portraits, mostly of prominent Missourians — a steamboat captain, attorneys, Civil War veterans, a banker. All the portraits display their subjects in stately poses and upper-crust garb, and they carry with them still-engaging stories.
Evidence is mounting, for example, that the subject of McGonigal’s picture was Martha A. Livingston Lykins Bingham, known as Mattie. She was the widow of an early Kansas City mayor and she became Bingham’s third wife.
McGonigal has learned that her painting’s sitter resembles a known photograph of Mattie Bingham.
If true, Bingham probably painted it about 1877, the year after Johnston Lykins died and his widow, rather scandalously, moved into Bingham’s house.
“It would be so cool if it actually is what I think it is,” McGonigal said.
It is certainly cool for McGonigal that the Jackson County Historical Society believed enough in the picture that it’s using it on a new biography of Mattie Lykins Bingham coming out later this month.
Kline has not agreed with McGonigal’s identification of the sitter in this painting and has stated that it more likely was painted a few years earlier.
Of the other portraits Kline authenticated, the earliest depicts a young Columbia merchant named Frederick Moss Prewitt. In 1834, Bingham, early in his painting career, had begun to befriend a wide circle of Missouri movers and shakers. Like many others, Kline asserts, Prewitt commissioned a portrait and remained a patron for many years. Bingham, who served a term in the Missouri legislature, eventually married a Prewitt niece.
In the 1850s, about the time Prewitt founded the first national bank organized in the state, Bingham painted Prewitt again, Kline says, and that later portrait gave him the confidence to authenticate the earlier work, which he had acquired at auction.
“I knew Bingham often painted the same person twice,” Kline writes in an as-yet-unpublished book, “so I searched (the Bloch catalog) for a resemblance to later portraits. And there he was in the same pose 20 years later.”
That 1850s painting of Prewitt has long been in the Nelson-Atkins collection. And the 1834 picture is now in the hands of Prewitt descendants, whom Kline tracked down.
The subjects of the other paintings Kline has attributed to Bingham:
•L.A.D. Crenshaw (1820-1884) and his wife Fanny Smith Crenshaw (1841-1919). Crenshaw was an early settler in Springfield, a mule trader, hardware wholesaler and, like Bingham, a native Southerner who supported the Union in the Civil War. Crenshaw’s portrait remains in the hands of descendants. His wife’s portrait hangs in the Springfield Art Museum, apparently undiscovered by Bloch.
•Lt. Col. Levi Pritchard (1831-1901). Bingham might have painted this near life-size portrait in Jefferson City about 1862, when Pritchard was a captain in the Missouri State Militia.
•Samuel Chilton (1808-1867) and his brother Charles Chilton (1818-1847), both of whom were attorneys in Boonville, Mo.
•Thomas B. Hudson (1814-1867). A St. Louis attorney and politician, Hudson was a veteran of the U.S.-Mexican War and became active in the Missouri railroad industry. He became widely known for a political duel with a happy ending. As Kline recounts it, Hudson was defamed by a newspaper publisher during the 1840 presidential campaign.
The men settled their beef but went through the motions of firing three errant shots and went on to make a big merry feast and a lasting friendship. Bingham probably painted his portrait in 1850, and the work remains in the hands of descendants.
•Capt. Joseph Kinney (1810-1892). A steamboater and shoe merchant, Kinney built the Rivercene mansion, now a bed-and-breakfast, on the Missouri River at New Franklin, Mo.
The painting was long identified as being by an unknown American artist, and the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Va., deaccessioned it a year ago. Kline bought it at auction last May and matched it with a portrait Bloch included but did not definitively identify in his catalog.
Kline and his panel authenticated McGonigal’s painting in 2010.
“We think it is clearly by Bingham,” Kline said, “and actually one of his best portraits.”
McGonigal said she’d heard from other Bingham experts who disagreed with that judgment, but she’s convinced she owns a Bingham.
“There was a recent article in our local Hays daily newspaper that proclaimed, ‘Ellis woman discovers famous painting,’ ” McGonigal told The Star. “It should have been more like, ‘Ellis woman finds other people who agree with her opinion that it’s a famous painting.’ ”
McGonigal said she was grateful that when she bought the picture — she wouldn’t say for how much — her friend lent her the money. The professor died just a few months ago.
“A couple of years ago,” she said, “when I told him my hunch, he said: ‘Are you sure you really paid me back for that?’ ”

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