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GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM, HORSE THIEF

A Recent Discovery

Fred R. Kline, M. A., Independent Art Historian

Copyright 1999-2012 by Fred R. Kline

 

                  Information in this paper may change as the result of ongoing research.

                        

 

Fred R. Kline, Director & Editor

George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings

7 Avenida Vista Grande-Suite B-7   Santa Fe, NM 87508
Telephone: 505-9881103   Email : FRK@GeorgeCalebBingham.Org


 

Consulting Scholars

Dr. Paul C. Nagel, Historian and Biographer

Note: Dr. Nagel’s biography of Bingham, George Caleb Bingham, Missouri’s Famed Painter and Forgotten Politician ( University of Missouri Press, Apr. 2005) features Horse Thief as a new Bingham discovery.

Paul Nagel has examined and authenticated George Caleb Bingham’s Horse Thief
and supports publication of the research herein.


                                               *****

Dr. John Wilmerding, Sarofim Professor of Art, Princeton University

William Kloss, Art Historian, Washington, DC

Dr. Elizabeth Johns, Professor Emerita of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Barbara Groseclose, Professor, Department of History of Art, Ohio State University

The four additional art historians and Bingham specialists listed above have reviewed the research and examined images of Horse Thief and they have kindly offered their support for the publication of the research herein.

  

 

Contents

Consulting Scholars

Annotated Record

Summary 

Condition 

Verso Stencils

Interpretive Description

Five Comparative Drawings

Pictorial & Compositional Source

Comparative Landscape Paintings

Comparative Natural History

Comparative Diminutive Figures

Comparative Relationship to “Daniel Boone” & “Election Series”

Comparative Size

Comparative Medium

Comparative Lack of Signature & Date

Early Author & Subject Consideration

Dusseldorf School Consideration and Influence

Conclusion

Bibliography

 

Annotated Record

Artist  GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM, American, 1811-1879

Title  HORSE THIEF

Medium  Oil on canvas

Size  29 x 35 ¾ inches

Painted  1852, New York City

 

Catalogue Raisonne

The George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings: Horse Thief, CRS-1. 

 

Collections:

Goupil & Co

Collection of the artist

Nathaniel Phillips, St. Louis & Boston

Collection of the artist

Clara Bingham King, Stephenville, Texas

By descent in the family of Clara Bingham King

Private Collection, Texas

Nick Brock Antiques, Dallas, Texas

Private Collection, South Dartmouth, Massachusetts

 

FRK note on provenance:

The uncommon 1851-53 Goupil & Co. stencil on “Horse Thief”, the period in which Goupil was Bingham’s dealer and when he was frequently in New York, states the dealer’s early New York address and offers a small window of time during which they commissioned paintings and prints of “Western character” from the artist.  Two of those commissioned paintings and the related prints are known from 1851-52.  Importantly, Goupil also commissioned a print to be made of “The Emigration of Daniel Boone”, recently rejected by the American Art Union, marking the end of an association that brought the artist essential sales and widespread renown.  Bingham then began to rework “Daniel Boone” and create new paintings with a renewed fervor.  In New York during 1852, and recently finished with “Daniel Boone”, Bingham doubtless encountered Asher Durand's “God's Judgment Upon Gog”, a grandiose fire-and-brimstone Biblical allegory, in the manner of Thomas Cole and John Martin,  altogether shocking to see amongst  Durand’s usually tranquil body of work.  “God’s Judgment” was on exhibit at the National Academy of Design, of which Durand was President.  Bingham's quite evident competitive response to “God's Judgment” was to paint “Horse Thief”, a more symbolic and restrained Biblical allegory, more stylistically similar to Cole but in clear counterpoint to Durand’s narrative of a vengeful God.  “Horse Thief”, in turn, can be clearly linked back as a pendant to “Daniel Boone”, in many ways a Biblical allegory itself.  As a contrasting link to “Daniel Boone”, “Horse Thief” suggests, with symbolic allusions to the teachings of Moses and Jesus, the rule of Constitutional law as opposed to vigilante law, pointing out that Boone’s new frontier and the growing Nation would need a foundation of law and order.  Like Durand’s “God’s Judgment”, Bingham’s “Horse Thief” was a startling variation from his standard works; arguably it was his most personal painting (along with "Martial Law/Order #11", 1869-70), touching his deepest moral convictions.  From an early age Bingham had studied the Bible and the law, had considered being a preacher and a lawyer, and for most of his life, as a Whig politician, fought for the primacy of Constitutional law.  Goupil’s encouragement to revise “Daniel Boone”, and their commissioning more paintings, undoubtedly gave Bingham renewed confidence after the Art Union’s rejection and thus added a vital element in assisting the creation of “Horse Thief”. 

The best documentary evidence known for “Horse Thief" appeared in the earliest published article, by May Simonds, which considered Bingham’s work and confirms to my satisfaction that it was owned by Bingham and consigned to Nathaniel Phillips' piano store in Boston, where it was no doubt exhibited with its pendant “Daniel Boone”.  In that article, according to an old friend of Bingham, Matthew Hastings (1834-1919, twenty years younger than Bingham, who became a noted and highly respected artist in St. Louis), Bingham is quoted as saying to Hastings, in an undated conversation:“The ‘Horse Thief’ excited much attention in Boston.” ( May Simonds, “A Pioneer Painter”, American Methodist Magazine, October 1902, p.76).  Nathaniel Phillips owned “Daniel Boone” from the time he was a merchant in St. Louis, before moving to Boston.  “Daniel Boone” was originally consigned to him by Bingham in 1852 to be raffled off but the raffle did not transpire and it was instead purchased by Phillips who, at the end of his life, donated “Daniel Boone” in 1890 to Washington University, St. Louis.  “Horse Thief” in all likelihood was also consigned to Phillips around the same time as “Daniel Boone” and became attached to “Daniel Boone” and Boston in Simond’s published account of Bingham’s comment.  This reliable evidence informed E. Maurice Bloch’s research and supported the continued attribution of “Horse Thief” in his Bingham Catalogue Raisonne, although he had only a title and a one reliable witness.  At some point, Phillips returned “Horse Thief” to Bingham.

Bingham went to Houston, Texas in 1861 to settle the estate of his brother Matthias Amend Bingham who went to Texas in 1835 and fought as an officer with Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto; he became Quartermaster General of the Texas Republic, stayed in close touch with his Missouri family, and later died in Houston in 1861, leaving no recorded family.  In 1873 Bingham again went to Houston, and to Austin and Stephenville, Texas ( where his married daughter Clara Bingham King lived).  Bingham went once more to Stephenville in 1878 (a year before his death).  In all likelihood he gave “Horse Thief” to Clara on either his 1873 or 1878 trip.  Of George Caleb Bingham’s six children, his daughter Clara was the only one for whom Bloch had found living descendants.  Clara was survived by eight children, several of whom are known to have lived well into the 20th century.  Of Bingham’s eight brothers and sisters, some probably followed their oldest brother Matthias to Texas and became associated with Clara and her family.

From 1901, when Clara died in Stephenville, “Horse Thief”, unsigned and not inscribed (normal for a Bingham painting), and with no attached notes, descended in Clara's extended family without being ascribed to Bingham.  Stephenville, Clara Bingham King’s home for almost fifty years, is 150 miles from Dallas-Forth Worth where a number of Bingham descendents came to live, as well as in other Texas cities, during the 20th-21st centuries.  Only two Bingham relations in Dallas were interviewed in the 1940s and 1960s by Bloch, both of whom noted some Bingham paintings in their possession.  Other distant Bingham relations in Texas, beyond the 1960s, were not contacted or noted by Bloch or later found. 

In 1999. "Horse Thief" was acquired from Nick Brock Antiques, Dallas, Texas (not ascribed to Bingham); and thence, conclusively given to Bingham by the BCRS committee, passed to its current owner, Private Collection, South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.


Exhibitions:

2006:The George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings.  Fred R. Kline, Editor.  George Caleb Bingham, Horse Thief.  Exhibited online at www,GeorgeCalebBingham.org.  Ongoing with revisions from April 2006-February 2010, Santa Fe, NM. 

2005: “George Caleb Bingham, The Artist and His World”. Curated by Paul Nagel. The State Historical Society of Missouri, Main Gallery, University of Missouri, Columbia , MO. April 22, 2005-August 19, 2005 Horse Thief featured with related drawings as a new discovery and exhibited with other Bingham paintings, drawings, and prints from the SHSM collection. Opening Lectures by Paul Nagel and Fred R. Kline


Brief Bibliography (see below Primary & Selected Bibliography):

2006: Fred R. Kline, Editor.  The George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings.  CRS-1, Horse Thief.  Illustration #1 & Research.  Published online at www.GeorgeCalebBingham.org.  Ongoing with revisions from April 2006-February 2010, Santa Fe, NM.

2006: Fred R. Kline. "George Caleb Bingham, Artist of Missouri and the American Frontier". Published online at www.GeorgeCalebBingham.org. Ongoing with revisions from 2005- 2010, Santa Fe, NM

2005: Paul Nagel. George Caleb Bingham, Missouri’s Famed Painter and Forgotten Politician . Horse Thief illustrated full page in color page 45 and noted as a new discovery on pages 39-41. University of Missouri Press, 2005

1986: E. Maurice Bloch, The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonne. Horse Thief # 548 (Attributed), page 269. University of Missouri Press, 1986.

1967: E. Maurice Bloch,George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonne.Horse Thief # 453 (Possible Painting), p.171. University of California Press, 1967.

***

Summary 

Until its recent discovery, George Caleb Bingham’s Horse Thief had been lost for some 150 years. It had been virtually a ghost painting, with no description other than a title and a few clues from reliable sources to guide research. In spite of so little to go on, Horse Thief is listed as Attributed-# 548 in E. Maurice Bloch’s final 1986 Bingham catalogue raisonne (Bloch/1/p.269), carried over from its first listing by Bloch twenty years earlier as References to Possible Paintings-#453 (Bloch/3/p.171). It is among the ranks of some 100 unlocated and generally undescribed paintings attributed to Bingham. Based on traditional reliable sources, Bloch kept alive the likelihood of Horse Thief’s existence. The provenance (above) tracks the painting's history based on all available evidence.  In any case, it is clear that Horse Thief had been well cared for up to the time it was offered for sale in 1999 as an anonymous painting under conventional art market circumstances in Texas.  

The artist’s lifestyle and haphazard record keeping could certainly explain why there was so little to go on. Bingham worked quickly; he rarely signed his paintings; he kept no log book of work produced or sold; verbal agreements were common; and finally, he stayed exceptionally busy coordinating a hectic life filled with painting, politics, family (including three wives and tragic deaths of several wives and children), and a great deal of traveling. 

Although Horse Thief can be seen as a somewhat atypical allegorical narrative, clear documentary and stylistic evidence of Bingham’s authorship finds conclusive support in many ways: 1. Most importantly with five of his drawings, all of which suggest a clear modeling and subject connection to comparative subjects depicted in Horse Thief (see below). Three of the drawings find their only known application in Horse Thief; and two drawings were used twice, in another painting and in Horse Thief.  2. The close-to exact comparative relationship to details in his paintings from 1845-1855 and particularly with the suggested pendant The Emigration of Daniel Boone.

Virtually all of the natural history details and small figurative details depicted in Bingham’s landscape, narrative, and genre paintings of the 1845-1855 period compare accurately and close-to exactly—in their style, selection, careful drawing, and distinctive palette—with similar details in Horse Thief.  

The date-and-place specific Goupil & Co stencil on the verso of Horse Thief—stating their specific 1851-53 address at 289 Broadway in New York City—pinpoints Bingham’s documented New York period when he had a working artist-dealer affiliation with Goupil. The narrowly focused Goupil trademark is a rare but entirely appropriate clue to find on a Bingham painting from this 1851-53 period.

The stencil dating also points to the years of a Thomas Cole revival in New York, a revival noted by Bingham and to which Horse Thief is clearly stylistically related. As part of that Cole revival, a surprisingly atypical painting exhibited in New York at the National Academy of Design by the renowned Asher B. Durand (then President of the NAD), God's Judgment upon Gog (1851-52), apparently influenced Bingham's creation of Horse Thief, itself atypical and surprising from Bingham.  Undoubtedly, Bingham would have seen Durand's painting on exhibition in New York as he was working there on painting and print commissions from Goupil and reworking Daniel Boone. Evidently, based on the sharp point-counterpoint of the two paintings, God's Judgment clearly became a competitive inspiration to Bingham in creating Horse Thief.  Durand's theme was the wrath of a vengeful God, certainly a model for vigilantism (the anti-theme of Horse Thief), while Bingham's response suggested in stark contrast the compassion of a moralistic God, a model for law and order: Bingham replaces and evolves the figure of Durand's God with the symbolic figure of Moses holding the Ten Commandments.  Neither Durand nor Bingham would attempt such an experimental subject again, although Bingham came close with his theatrically moralistic Civil War painting Martial Law-Order No. 11

Bingham’s authorship of Horse Thief finds compelling documentary support with the painting’s correlation to Francis Nicholson’s print Landscape Composition,I-11, an instructional print that bears an integral relationship to two of Bingham’s paintings: Horse Thief (Bloch/1/#548) and one of his Dusseldorf paintings, Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine (Bloch/1/#303). In both paintings, this print evidently served as a pictorial and compositional source; however, a “source” that was characteristically transformed by Bingham into an essentially new work.  Chronologically, at its earliest, Bingham’s first use of the print was in Horse Thief and then some six years later in Moonlight Scene. Bloch has illustrated this very print as a specific “instruction book” example available to Bingham in Nicholson’s 1823 book, The Practice of Drawing and Painting Landscapes from Nature…Etc. (Bloch/3/plate 105). While suggesting an “apparent” use by Bingham of such sources, Bloch did not then or later link this or another specific print as a source for a painting by Bingham. As noted now in this research for the first time, both Horse Thief and Moonlight Scene illustrate the clearest use by Bingham of a specific instruction book compositional source in his paintings; in this case, in at least two of his imaginative landscapes.  

After study of the actual landscapes that were a part of Bingham’s experience—particularly around Arrow Rock, Missouri and its Missouri River environs which include forests, ravines, gorges, and rock bluffs--the locale of Horse Thief seems less imaginative or made-up than an amalgam of landscape elements based on the artist’s memories of real places he had known.  

In addition to Horse Thief’s undoubted compositional relationship to the Nicholson print, the compositional principle of Horse Thief also proves to be, with slight variations, closely comparative if not identical to all of Bingham’s 1850’s landscape paintings(see below)—including importantly the landscape setting of The Emigration of Daniel Boone. The repeated and characteristic use in these landscapes of a geometrically structured pattern of spatial division suggests a signature stylistic approach entirely in keeping with Bloch’s analysis of Bingham’s landscape composition. This signature-pattern, also perceptively described by John Wilmerding, provides a consistent and decisive visual link echoing from painting to painting, a pattern clearly laid down in Horse Thief.  

As Bloch further notes in regard to Bingham’s organizational clarity, the figurative subjects that appear among the artist’s some 25 narratives create structured pyramidal arrangements in virtually every painting—excepting the large crowd scenes in the “Election” series. In Horse Thief that signature form is articulated by the four figures that create the base of the pyramid and the symbolic figurative stone that rises at the apex.  

There can be no question that the artistically rare and historically significant “horse thief” subject fits well within the Western frontier context of Bingham’s body of work and develops the artist’s often stated intention "to record the political and social history of my time and place". Bingham was doubtless aware of the long standing horse thievery problem in Missouri. He was a noted politician and citizen of Missouri, and a nationally active Whig as well, when the nation’s first Anti Horse Thief Association was forming; it was officially established in Luray, Missouri in 1854. The AHTA’s stated purpose was to engage their own fraternal association of law-abiding vigilantes to combat the theft of horses in Missouri and to stop the “lynch law” method of frontier justice. This combined situation of horse thievery and lynching had been a festering home-grown Missouri problem for some years, and equally a problem of national importance since Missouri also represented America’s Western frontier. Horse Thief offered an ideal nationalistic subject for Bingham, “The Missouri Artist” who fervently sought national recognition through his art for himself and for his home state.  

Drawing on Bingham’s letters, Bloch emphasized: “In the mid-1850s, when Bingham’s political, social, and artistic ideas began to coalesce, he conceived of his painting as a suitable means of expressing himself against injustice and wrongdoing" (Bloch/1/p.22).  It now appears that Bingham quietly took his first, essentially unobserved, step in this direction during the early 1850s with Horse ThiefMartial Law (1865/70), the emotional fulfillment of Bingham’s widely quoted vow to avenge a Union-ordered injustice to civilians during the Civil War, was his last known venture into a narrative of social reform. Both Horse Thief and Martial Law share Bingham’s sense of Biblical morality and Constitutional justice.  

Horse Thief, much in keeping with Bingham’s experimental ventures into landscape, can readily be seen as his clearest homage to the allegorical and moralistic landscapes of Thomas Cole. Importantly, the religious overtones of Cole’s “The Cross in the World” series, and even Frederick Edwin Church’s later related lament, To the Memory of Cole(1848)—with their attendant Christian crosses rising in the wilderness—appear to have encouraged Bingham’s use of Old and New Testament symbolism in Horse Thief--as did Durand's painting, God's Judgment, already mentioned.   Among American artists, a Cole revival was very much in vogue in the early 1850s, as was the popular idea of America’s God-sanctioned "Manifest Destiny".  Bingham boldly introduced into Horse Thief a socially conscious narrative infused with moralistic and legalistic overtones, a dual theme which neither Cole nor he had previously attempted; however, the theme did reflect Bingham's earliest boyhood ambitions of becoming a preacher and a lawyer, characteristics of which were strongly evident throughout his life. Horse Thief’s allegorical narrative presents, in the style of a Cole-like miniature drama, a scene of potential “injustice and wrongdoing” wherein vigilante “justice” can be seen to ultimately threaten Mosaic law, Christian morality, and the Constitutional right of trial by jury. It is an impressive performance by Bingham: a brilliant model of narrative concision, embedded symbolism, and controlled melodrama, and it characteristically reveals, as Bloch notes in regard to Daniel Boone, “a remarkable grasp of form and content”.  

E. Maurice Bloch’s monumental study of George Caleb Bingham’s paintings and drawings has guided this attribution and lends its respected authority as mentor to our own observations. Bloch’s impeccable scholarship has led to the development of any connoisseurship we may have acquired in regard to Bingham’s work. Our procedure for this attribution followed the general guidelines Bloch used for his own attributions of many unsigned Bingham paintings. He suggested a stylistic analysis based generally on Bingham’s “precise and careful drawing and his organizational clarity, reinforced by available documentary evidence and other relevant data”. It is clear from the accumulated evidence, both stylistic and documentary, that Bingham’s authorship of Horse Thief has been established. Horse Thief now offers for appreciation and study a long lost painting of major importance by George Caleb Bingham.
 

*****

 Condition  

Horse Thief was purchased in near-pristine condition in its presumed original frame. There were no paint losses in the figurative elements and only very minor losses in small areas of landscape, sky, and outer edges. When purchased, the canvas was stiff and creased from pressure against the stretcher. Normal craquelure was evident throughout the entire surface paint. However, the verso revealed a dramatic and pervasive web of cracking in the gesso ground; consequently, a stabilizing relining was deemed imperative. Very light cleaning and varnishing were also carried out and the minor losses were inpainted. Two windows in the relined canvas preserve the two stencils, Goupil (supplier) and Rowney (manufacturer). The painting was brought to its present good condition by John Andolsek in Santa Fe, February 2000.



Verso Stencils

Stencil # 1: Goupil & Co, Artist's Colourmen, 289 Broadway, New York (1851-53 at this address). Stencil # 2: G. Rowney & Co, Manufacturers, 51 Rathbone Place, London. (ca.1851-53). Stencils for the manufacturer (Rowney) and the supplier (Goupil) are known to appear together on American canvases. (see Alexander Katlan. American Artists' Materials, Vol. I . Soundview Press. Madison, CT, 1992.).  

Due to the pervasive relined condition among Bingham’s paintings in museum collections, the catalogue raisonne (Bloch/1) rarely makes note of any stencil marks or inscriptions [only one Rowney stencil is noted]. Apparently, during the dark ages of the conservation arts, and without any notes being made, most of Bingham’s paintings had been relined long ago and irretrievably flattened, thus erasing their original surface. Any possible stencil clue, which could lead to a supplier or manufacturer and possibly to provenance information, is almost totally unaccounted for in Bloch’s study of Bingham's works. Horse Thief's painted surface, in spite of a threatening state of craquelure, had remained stable under obviously close to ideal conditions and was only recently carefully cleaned and relined and still retains its original surface.  

The stenciled supplier's mark on the back of Horse Thief clearly reads: Goupil & Co, Artist's Colourmen, 289 Broadway, New York. This was the company's name and address from 1851-1853. The canvas verifiably and, in all likelihood the painting, date from the 1851-53 period—certainly no earlier, and a later use is unlikely.

Importantly, the 1851-53 dates for the Goupil address coordinate with Bingham's presence in New York City and with his artist-dealer affiliation during this same period with the art firm of Goupil & Co. In fact, documents show that Goupil commissioned two paintings and three prints from Bingham during this time. In 1851, Bingham received commissions from Goupil & Co to paint two subjects of “Western character” that could also be published as lithographs for a popular market; those pictures were: In a Quandary (1851) and Canvassing for a Vote (1851-52). At the same time, Goupil also contracted with Bingham to publish a popular lithograph of his Emigration of Daniel Boone, a painting which he had completed in 1851 for the American Art Union (who then unaccountably rejected it) right before his affiliation with Goupil.  

During this same period, after a lithograph was made of the rejected Daniel Boone, Bingham then revised the painting, opening up the landscape into a more spacious middle ground, a revision also related to expansive middle ground of Horse Thief.  As Horse Thief's composition does not lend itself to translation as a popular print, it is unlikely that Goupil commissioned it, but far more likely that it was created as an independent work by Bingham as a pendant link to Daniel Boone and, as described above, in response to Asher Durand's Gog's Judgment Upon Gog (1851-52)  

Finally, the date & place-specific Goupil stencil on Horse Thief supports the following sequence of events: 1. A reliable assurance for the creation of Horse Thief during the1851-53 period in New York City.  2. Bingham's period of a working affiliation with Goupil in New York making two new paintings and three prints.  3. Bingham's period in New York when he reworked Daniel Boone.  4. Bingham's period of a likely encounter with Durand's God's Judgment and by extension to Bingham's evident response to God's Judgment with Horse Thief which can be linked as a pendant to Daniel Boone.  

 
An Interpretive Description of Horse Thief

The small-scale narrative scene set within the landscape requires the observer to closely focus upon the unfolding human drama in order to understand the action taking place.  

Into a panoramic and grandiose landscape comprised of dark storm clouds, monumental rock towers, and distant mountains--suggestive of a Western locale—ride three horsemen with a prisoner on foot. The Western-style horsemen are bearded and dressed in traditional wide-brimmed hats that sport jaunty blue and white Indian-like feathers. Two of them are carrying rifles. They are wearing the red and blue flannel garb commonly worn in the Western frontier of 19th century America. They could be vigilantes, deputies from a frontier town, or militia.

The prisoner—hands bound behind him, hatless, dressed like the horsemen—walks beside them, a slow progress that ominously suggests they may not go much farther with him. The prisoner’s “crime” is a mystery. Whether he is guilty or innocent, and whatever he is accused of, he is nevertheless a prisoner whose guilt is presumed.

This wounded and pitiable man compellingly suggests a Christ-like figure, an idea supported by an assortment of symbolic details: a short distance behind him, a large tombstone-like monolith suggests Christ’s burial vault; a few steps in front of him, a large claw-like piece of deadwood suggests Christ’s crown of thorns; the prisoner’s bloody forehead is further suggestive of Christ’s wounds.  

The party is traveling on a trail through a rocky pass, close by a small pond and a grove of trees. The weather is ominous. A solitary highlighted branch juts out of a dark tree in the grove, suggesting a possible hanging tree. Just below the highlighted branch, the still pond suggests a reflective moment amidst the gathering storm.

The lead horse has stopped near the pond as sunlight breaks through the clouds. A decisive moment may be at hand.

Leaning forward in his saddle, the leader ponders what lies ahead. The men probably have some distance to travel before reaching “civilization”, and a jail for the prisoner. The horsemen are facing a fierce wind. A hat brim bends back, the riders’ scarves flutter behind them, small trees sway violently. Swift frontier justice might proceed with the prisoner; his fate seems precarious. The threatening tempest leaves little doubt of the coming thunder, lightning, and rain. The observer wonders: Are they going to hang him? 

Above the lead rider and caught in the passing light, an imposing figurative stone rises hauntingly from a mound of earth, as if a spiritual presence is watching and suggesting a judgment of the events taking place. The shrouded figure of this “Judgment Stone” appears to be holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments—as commonly held by Moses in well-known engraved depictions. The specter of law and order hovers above them. Two commandments and a moral possibly come to an observer’s mind; in considering the prisoner “Thou Shalt Not Steal”; in considering the horsemen “Thou Shalt Not Kill”; and fittingly, as the two ideas come together, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.

Two apparitions have materialized in the storm filled sky: a sweeping evocation in the gathered dark clouds of the slain Beast of the Apocalypse; and, just above the hidden head of the Beast, two celestial eyes materialize. The very clouds conjure a divine edict and answer the call for moral vigilance in America’s future. 

Within the narrative of this painting the outcome remains a question, but the artist is clearly encouraging the observer to look closely, think, and finally judge the action. A decision has to be made. While the future remains a question, answered only in the observer’s mind, one can see, surely with relief, that the prisoner is still alive and does not yet have a noose around his neck, that the Ten Commandments and the United States Constitution may prevail, and that the evil Beast has been slain. There is hope that justice will prevail, hope that the prisoner will live to offer a defense for his accused crime.  

The bigger questions implicit in this allegory rise up: What might prevail on America’s Western frontier: lynch law or trial by jury?  Vigilante “justice” or the Judeo-Christian code of law?  Anarchy or Civilization?  What will become of American Democracy as the United States expands westward?  

Nature, in all its divinity, hosts and is even sensitive to the unfolding events, but human affairs hold the spotlight at center stage. At the heart of this picture lies the political and human struggle for justice and ultimately for civilization: the struggle to uphold moral and Constitutional law in the young nation’s untamed and westward expanding borders.



Five Comparative Drawings: Related Sources for Horse Thief

1. Bingham drawing:

Bloch/4/p.253/118-B-Verso:Figure Studies (detail here noted as “man on a horse”)

Comparative Horse Thief subject : “three horsemen”


No previous study, by Bloch or others, has considered the application of the “man on a horse” drawing to a painting by Bingham.

This rare drawing of a man on a horse, modeled unusually small in scale, suggests clear similarities to the three diminutive horsemen in Horse Thief, and it should be noted to the diminutive horsemen in the first version of The Emigration of Daniel Boone, and more succinctly in the second and final version. The undated drawing is wedged into a sheet with two other figure studies both of which are unrelated to our considered drawing and to each other.

The drawing depicts a bearded man wearing common clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. He is riding a horse that wears a breast-collar (a device used to keep the saddle from slipping backwards), an unusual horse-detail but one that is found in other Bingham’s paintings: on both featured horses in Martial Law; and on two horses in the two Gen. Nathaniel Lyon portraits. No specific military relationship is necessarily suggested by its use.

All of the noted details from this “model” drawing are specifically repeated in all of the three riders and in two of the three horses in Horse Thief. While none of Horse Thief’s painted horsemen copy the drawing exactly, they can be seen as derivative variations of it: varying subtly in their poses and adding subjective details like hat-feathers (see note below), rifles, and scarves.

Further relational evidence is made clear from Bloch’s study of Bingham’s drawing-to-painting process, which states: “…figures are drawn to the same scale as their painted counterparts, with allowance made for those slight differences that occurred when the artist adjusted a particular element of a figure to fit the requirements of an evolving composition. The measurements I have taken of a number of figures in drawings and their counterparts in related paintings vary in height from 1/8 inch to 1½ inches.” (Bloch/4/p.12). True to Bloch’s equation, the size of Bingham’s drawing is 2 ¾ inches in height; its main painted counterpart, the lead horseman in Horse Thief, is a closely comparable 2 ¼ inches, with the other two horsemen also comparable to Bloch’s noted variation. Clearly, the horsemen depicted in Horse Thief support the most closely related and only known use of this drawing in a painting by Bingham.

(*Note: A further consideration of Martial Law also reveals a strong figurative similarity between the gray horse in Horse Thief and its much larger twin in Martial Law; and a rare but notable detail of hat-feathers is also repeated in both paintings, although the feathers appear to be historically appropriate in Martial Law and only stylish in Horse Thief.)



2. & 3. Bingham drawings:

Bloch/4/p.141/63-B-Verso: Studies of Various Figures/
(one figure here noted as “small Christ study”)

Bloch/4/p.262/122-B-Verso: Preliminary study of Christ for Christ Appearing to His Mother (here noted as “large Christ study”)

Comparative Horse Thief subject: “the prisoner”

No previous study by Bloch or others has connected either of these two drawings to a painting by Bingham. The suggested title for the large Christ study only refers to its Titian-related imagery. The small Christ study, noted by Bloch as “a small draped figure”, was not yet connected by him to the larger Christ study; however, a close analysis leaves little doubt of the relationship between the large and small studies.

It is stylistically evident that Bingham’s two similar sketches, a large and a small Christ study, bear figurative and subjective relationships to the diminutive Christ-like prisoner in Horse Thief. The varied figuration of Christ in both drawings, perhaps more ambiguous in the larger sketch, suggests the plausible adjustment into a bound captive taking a step, as in Horse Thief.

The one-inch variation in height between the small study of Christ and the prisoner in Horse Thief compares favorably to Bloch’s previously stated formula defining Bingham’s practice. Like the diminutive “man on a horse” considered above, the diminutive Christ study is for Bingham a characteristic choice of yet another small-scale drawing appropriately directed toward Horse Thief.

The prisoner’s Christ-like persona offers an appropriate image for the moralistic narrative of Horse Thief. This idea also supports the related inclusion in the picture of additional Judeo-Christian iconography, that of the Mosaic “judgment stone”. The two images incorporate a mixed Old and New Testament reference that Bloch and others have pointed out for the clearly related The Emigration of Daniel Boone, the suggested pendant to Horse Thief. As the evidence suggests, the Christ-analogous prisoner depicted in Horse Thief suggests the only plausible use of the small model drawing of Christ in a painting by Bingham.



4. Bingham drawing:

Bloch/4/p.182/79. Fisherman waiting for a bite

Comparative Horse Thief subject: “rock tower sections”

A grouping of large rocks serves as the landscape ground upon which a fisherman reclines in the drawing Fisherman Waiting for a Bite. The drawing undoubtedly had its first use as a model for the rocks in the foreground of Fishing in the Mississippi (1851)—a painting which shares with Horse Thief a circa date and a 29 x 36 inches canvas size. Additionally, the varied rocks in the drawing also accurately replicate both the relative size and relative shape of various rock tower sections and other large rock features in Horse Thief, suggesting clearly Bingham’s common modeling practice and a second use of the drawing.

It is extremely rare for Bingham to dedicate half of a drawing to the delineation of a landscape feature or to any landscape; in this case, a studied but loosely constructed conglomerate of geometrically-shaped rocks. Judging from Bingham’s drawing practice, this conspicuous architectonic detail suggests an additional logical use as a model for rock section building-blocks in Horse Thief and in other Bingham landscapes as building-blocks or as variously constructed rock sections. While a first use of this drawing in Fishing in the Mississippi has been determined, an additional application of the landscape-half of the drawing can be clearly seen as the model for the building-block sections used in the construction of the rock towers in Horse Thief.



5. Bingham drawing:

Bloch/4/ 52-A Study of a Greatcoat

Comparative Horse Thief subject: “Judgment Stone”

Bingham’s only known drawing of pure drapery, Study of a Greatcoat, suggests itself as the source of the figurative “Judgment Stone” in Horse Thief. The drawing no doubt began as an idea for a minor prop—a coat to hang on the coat-rack background of the 1849 painting Country Politician. Bingham clearly evolved and recycled the drawing for its placement into Horse Thief, into a yet more dramatic and cogent feature: a so-called “Judgment Stone”, a “draped” figurative stone, suggestive (as Ron Tyler first pointed out) of a Moses-like statue holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (or Mosaic Law ). This cleverly cloaked symbol of Judeo-Christian morality and law is supported subjectively by the moralistic narrative into which it has been placed and by Bingham’s creative practice of constructing his paintings through arrangements of his model drawings. The larger drawing’s use presents a reasonable exception to Block’s drawing-to-painting size ratio. Stylistically, the configuration of the hanging coat in the drawing, with its rock-like fissures and its surface shadowplay, suggests a remarkable and close to exact model for the Judgment Stone. In one cogent detail, the draped jutting knob which holds the hanging coat clearly finds its transference in the unusual “head” rising on the “shoulders” of the stone. Study of a Greatcoat, Bingham’s most evocative drawing, found scant realization of its richly ambiguous qualities in the painting Country Politician, where it appears all but invisible as a vague and flat dark shape in a dark background, a detail hardly requiring a study drawing. In Horse Thief’s iconic Judgment Stone, Bingham made a brilliant reprisal of this mysterious abstract shape.

*****

A Pictorial and Compositional Source for Horse Thief
(
and also for Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine)

The source:
Francis Nicholson (1753-1844), *Landscape Composition. Lithograph. I-11.
In: F. Nicholson, The Practice of Drawing and Painting Landscapes
from Nature…
,1823. [*illustrated in: Bloch/2/Plate 105]. Nicholson’s Landscape Composition depicts two identical views of a castle in a landscape by a river, two side by side illustrations that show variations of light and shade within a composition.

The one page from Nicholson that Bloch chose to illustrate as an example of Bingham’s probable use of this instruction book manual was a lithograph titled Landscape Composition I-11. The print reflects an undoubted pictorial and compositional source for Horse Thief and clearly suggests its use by Bingham. As a second and conclusive proof, there is an additional correlation of the print’s later use in the published Bingham, Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine.

Bingham’s use of an instructional print source for Horse Thief illustrates his masterful reinvention of Nicholson’s mundane instruction book model; examples follow:

*The gradually ascending three castle towers in the Nicholson print transform into the architecturally similar ascending three rock towers in Horse Thief.

*A square block of stone at lower right foreground in the print, suggests the geometrically similar building blocks of the rock towers in Horse Thief.

*A window by the highest castle tower in the print reappears as a window-like niche in the highest rock tower in Horse Thief.

*A dense grove of trees at right foreground under the castle towers in the print is transposed to the same position under the rock towers in Horse Thief.

*In front of the grove of trees and the castle towers in the print, the tranquil river widens into a pool-like area of water; as a pool of water, it is carried over into the same position by the trees and rock towers in Horse Thief.

*A large tree at left foreground in the print reappears in the same position in Horse Thief.

*A distant mountain behind a flat-line bridge in the left-center of the print transfers to the same position in Horse Thief as virtually the same mountain behind a flat-line expanse of trees.

*In the print, the bridge at lower left spans the river and connects both left and right sections of the composition; in Horse Thief, the bridge has transformed into a line of trees similarly “bridging” both sides of the composition.

*In the print at lower left, the figure of the bargeman in the foreground rises into the distant bridge in the background; in Horse Thief at lower left, the figurative stone in the foreground rises into the distant line of trees in the background.

*The orchestrated light and shade shown in the two views of the print synthesizes consciously into the orchestrated use of light and shade in Horse Thief.

*The mode and manner of transportation is brilliantly transformed: the barge (and bargeman) paused along the right-curving river in the foreground of the print becomes in Horse Thief the exactly positioned horses (and horsemen), also paused, along the right-curving trail that, as in the print, moves off to the right and abruptly ends at the edge of the picture frame.

*In a stunning transformation, the lone silhouetted figure of a bargeman standing on a rise of riverbank to the left of the pooled water, becomes in Horse Thief the similarly positioned, figuratively comparative, and size-comparative “judgment stone”, which in the painting rises in a pose suggestive of Moses holding the Ten Commandments.  



Addendum: The additional relationship of the Nicholson print to Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine  

After first use of Nicholson’s print Landscape Composition I-11 in Horse Thief (1852), Bingham’s additional use of the print can also be found in his later Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine (1857/59). Both Nicholson print and Moonlight Scene are similarly composed, and each contain castle tower features which compare with Horse Thief’s similar rock towers.

Bingham’s characteristic reworking from print-to-painting in Moonlight Scene manifests here, as in Horse Thief, as illustrative of the artist’s distinctive transformative vision.  Comparative examples of print to painting transformations are quite obvious and easily perceived.

Bloch notes that the castle depicted in Moonlight Scene is traditionally said to be Drachenfeldt Castle (Bloch/1/p.212). However, an exhaustive search shows no current or historical record of this castle. As the castle and much else in Moonlight Scene has undoubtedly evolved from the generalized features of the Nicholson print, it can be assumed that the castle in the painting is as fanciful as the castle in the print. This effectively releases Moonlight Scene from any relationship to an actual setting and thus assigns to the painting its essential derivation from the Nicholson print.

Bingham’s use of Nicholson’s print as a pictorial and compositional source forMoonlight Scene clearly links for the first time an established Bingham painting to its specific print source, and thus supports Bloch’s hypothesis.



Comparative Landscape Paintings

As depicted in Horse Thief the dramatic atmospherics, the panoramic landscape, the allegorical details, and the small-scale narrative, all clearly suggest the landscape paintings of Thomas Cole. Horse Thief is clearly recognizable as a Cole-derived composition and arguably Bingham’s finest homage to the Hudson River School master, who died in 1848. Cole was an influence probably as early as 1838, Bloch estimates; however, Bingham’s mannered and individualistic style—characterized, as Bloch repeatedly notes, by “precise and careful drawing and an organizational clarity”—is distinctly his own. This distinction of style is strongly evident in Horse Thief.

In Bloch’s essay “Landscape Painting” (Bloch/2/pp.171-184), he considers Bingham’s 49 known landscapes, noting that less than half of his recorded landscapes have been located. This suggests that some 50 landscapes are possibly still extant and unidentified. Bloch continues: “Despite the fact that the complete story of Bingham’s work as a landscapist is yet to be told—and this cannot be accomplished until more of the pictorial evidence is available—we can still form a fairly conclusive estimate of his place in the field… He tried his hand at everything…His excursion into the field covered the entire gamut of style in American landscape…For a brief span in the early 1850s, his work took on the more dramatic direction of Thomas Cole…as in The Storm [1852-53], in an atmosphere richly charged with drama…largely affected by the thunderous sky, movemented foliage, and the greatly accented use of lights and darks…”. Bloch could well have been describing the setting of Horse Thief, which, like the concurrent The Storm, exhibits a comparable originality of landscape for Bingham.

Bloch, in his examination of Bingham’s landscape style, further notes:
“His [Bingham’s] approach to landscape, like his approach to figure subjects, evidently involved a precise organization and a considered preparation…All of Bingham’s known landscapes are as consciously composed as his better known genre subjects. Like many other landscape painters of his time, he apparently followed the advice of the instruction-book masters, using prescribed formulas for his compositions…” (see above Bingam's use of the Nicholson print) .

Bloch continues: “…the spectator is led gradually into the distance through an opening in the right foreground which has been built up, in a stage-like fashion, by rocks and enframing trees. In the background, distant hills are visible…The play of darks against lights in a carefully organized pattern of receding planes is effectively demonstrated…”. Again, this accurately describes the landscape of Horse Thief. As many scholars have recognized in Bingham’s works, and as Matthew Baigell has concisely stated of Bingham (Baigell, Dictionary of American Art, p.36): “No 19th century American artist created a more conscious geometrical structure of forms.”

In this organizational regard, Horse Thief’s signature-Bingham approach can undoubtedly be seen comparatively in its close to exact compositional relationship to nine out of ten of the artist’s 1850s landscape paintings:

  1. Mountain Landscape with Fisherman ( Ca.1850, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis)
  2. Mountain Landscape with Deer ( Ca. 1850, Museum of Western Art, Denver)
  3. The Emigration of Daniel Boone ( 1851, Washington University)* see below
  4. The Storm ( ca.1852-53, Wadsworth Atheneum)
  5. Landscape with Waterwheel and Boy Fishing ( 1853, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
  6. Deer in Stormy Landscape ( ca.1852-53, Anschutz Collection, Denver)
  7. View of a Lake in the Mountains ( after 1853, L.A. County Museum of Art)
  8. Landscape with an Indian Encampment ( after 1853, Gilcrease Institute)
  9. Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine ( 1857-59, Private Collection)


Comparative Paintings: Natural History Details

Virtually all of the natural history details depicted in Bingham’s landscape, narrative, and genre paintings of the 1850s, compare accurately—in their selection, careful drawing, and distinctive palette—with similar details in Horse Thief.

[See list of paintings above and other examples from the 1850s.]

Comparative natural history details include:

  1. Large rock features
  2. Rock lichen
  3. Small stones
  4. Deadwood
  5. Trees, including: groves of trees, single trees, leaves of trees, tree branches (Note: A signature motif of a highlighted branch consistently emerges out of a darker background of trees in Bingham’s paintings.)
  6. Grass and small plants
  7. Sky and cloud forms
  8. Bodies of water and water surface (Note: A body of water of some kind appears as a signature motif in virtually all of Bingham’s paintings with landscape features. In Horse Thief, the pond, in spite of the dry and rocky nature of the terrain, suggests a characteristic choice).
  9. Barren ground.


Comparative Paintings: Diminutive Figures


Frequently appearing in a wide range of Bingham’s paintings from 1845 to 1877, precise and carefully drawn diminutive human and animal figures (mostly horses) relate stylistically to those figures found in Horse Thief.

Those paintings notably include:

  1. Cottage Scenery
  2. Landscape: Rural Scenery
  3. Mountain Landscape with Fisherman
  4. The Emigration of Daniel Boone
    (see lithograph by Regnier of first version, showing similar mounted figures with rifles)
  5. Landscape with Waterwheel and Boy Fishing
  6. View of a Lake in the Mountains
  7. Landscape with an Indian Encampment
  8. Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine
  9. Washington Crossing the Delaware
  10. View of Pikes Peak
  11. Forest Hill: The Nelson Homestead (see mounted figures)


Comparative Paintings: Horse Thief‘s pendant relationship to
The Emigration of Daniel Boone and its continuing relationship to the “Election Series”

 

The surprising pendant relationship of The Emigration of Daniel Boone to Horse Thief suggests the further development of Bingham’s characteristic interest in the distinct point-counterpoint relationships of a number of paintings in his body of work (see Horse Thief's reactive and concurrent relationship to Durand's God's Judgment discussed above.) 

Henry Adams first successfully directed this idea at Fur Traders Descending the Missouri and his suggested pendant The Concealed Enemy. As Adams explained: in Fur Traders, essentially a new age of commerce began on the Western frontier; in The Concealed Enemy, the "uncivilized" Indian threatened disorder in the larger sense to America’s system of free enterprise. Our comparison suggests a similar but updated point-counterpoint relationship: in Daniel Boone, essentially following the trail blazed by the early commerce of fur traders and others, a new age of colonization began on the Western frontier. In Horse Thief, in the wake of the disruptive Indian, outlaws and vigilantes now threaten disorder to America’s system of justice and in the larger sense to colonization of the West. Clearly, The Concealed Enemy is to Fur Traders what Horse Thief is to Daniel Boone. As it is suggested in these four paintings, Bingham perceived the young American civilization moving forward into an evolving age of commerce and colonization but not without the accompanying perils of threatened barbarism and lawlessness.

In addition to the clear point-counterpoint relationship, Daniel Boone and Horse Thief share distinct similarities. Both narrative subjects are allegorical with moral overtones and are frontier specific. Both share a dramatic landscape quality, a similar palette, and other stylistic affinities such as spatial organization, natural history details and diminutive figuration. Both are essentially concurrent works from New York City in the 1851-53 period of Bingham’s affiliation with Goupil and Company . Both Horse Thief, as earlier described, and Daniel Boone, allude symbolically to Christ and Moses, mixing Judeo-Christian references. The use of Biblical analogy in Bingham’s work was first suggested by Bloch in relation to Daniel Boone. In that painting, Bingham visually casts Daniel Boone and his wife as the Holy Family on their Flight into Egypt to save the life of Infant Jesus and hence the future of Christianity. Brilliantly extending the same image to include the larger scene, Bingham creates another visual metaphor of Daniel Boone as the frontier Moses leading American pioneers, a new chosen people, on their Exodus through the wilderness toward the Promised Land of the West.

Horse Thief’s subject, when considered among Bingham’s other politically and socially conscious paintings of this circa 1850-55 period, can also be seen as an effective counterpoint to any one of his “Election-series” paintings. In the Election-series, Bingham presents the lively spectacle of the American electorate engaged in its singular decision-making process within the American political and legal system: the spectacle wherein the people cast their votes and the majority rules; where the nation, and hence our democratic civilization, is given direction. In Horse Thief, Bingham also presents a decision-making narrative closely related to the Election-series but he presents it as questions in sharp counterpoint: Will the same American political system that honors the electoral process grant a man the right to unilaterally act as judge and jury? On the frontier fringe of civilization where lawlessness is a temptation, will we choose to honor or ignore the traditional Judeo-Christian moral code and the Constitution upon which our nation is founded?  Bingham doesn’t preach; his message is conservative and democratic: In a free nation, guided by law and freedom of choice, justice will prevail.

With the consideration of the moral allegory presented in Horse Thief as a thoughtful counterpoint, The Emigration of Daniel Boone, and the Election Series as well, clearly gain in depth as does Bingham’s entire cycle of frontier life.




Comparative Size

The approximately 29 x 36 inches canvas size of Horse Thief is consistent with the American Art-Union’s practice, Bingham’s “dealer” for six years, and with Bingham’s known use in nine paintings from 1845-54: in 1845--(Concealed Enemy, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, Cottage Scenery, Landscape: Rural Scenery); in 1846-47--(Lighter Relieving a Steamboat Aground); in 1849--(Landscape with Cattle #3 and Feeding Time); in 1851--(Fishing on the Mississippi); in 1854--(Woodboatmen on a River-2).

 
Comparative Medium

 The oil on canvas medium is consistent with Bingham’s usual practice.


Comparative Lack of Signature and Date
 

The lack of signature and date is typical, being a common characteristic in Bingham’s paintings; only roughly 5% of his paintings are signed. Notably, among the unsigned works are included many of his masterpieces: Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845), The Wood-Boat (1850), Mountain Landscape with Fisherman (1850), The Emigration of Daniel Boone (1851-52), The County Election (1852), The Storm (1852-53), The Verdict of the People (1854-55), Washington Crossing the Delaware (1856-71), Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine (1857-59). Very few of his portraits are signed as well. Bingham could have taken this fashion from the Old Masters of the 16th-18th centuries, who rarely if ever signed. Their compositional and drawing practices guided him throughout his career.

Early Author and Subject Consideration of Horse Thief

Early consideration of authorship was given to Bingham’s contemporary and fellow Goupil & Co. artist, William Tylee Ranney and to Ranney’s painting, The Tory Escort (1857), which was earlier thought of as a possible subject for Horse Thief. The Tory Escort, as equivalent subject to Horse Thief, is no longer given support. The Ranney Catalogue Raisonne Committee and our further research has ruled out Ranney authorship.

Early consideration of the subject as “The Capture of Major Andre”, notably the subject of a painting by Asher B. Durand, was investigated and is no longer given support.

Early consideration of authorship was given to John Mix Stanley. This idea was later ruled out by the John Mix Stanley Catalogue Raisonne Committee and our further research concurs.

Early imagined titles included: "The Captive", "The Prisoner", "The Spy", “The Vigilantes”, “Brought to Justice”, “The Fateful Hour”; etc. These and other subject-related titles did not coordinate with known, exhibited, or missing works listed in a wide range of circa 1850-60 exhibitions.

Other artists given early consideration but rejected as author included: Albert Bierstadt, Frederick E. Church, Asher Brown Durand, Charles Deas, Thomas Doughty, William Stanley Haseltine, Joshua Shaw, and Charles Wimar. Numerous other American and European artists active 1850-1860 were also considered and rejected.
In the end, no stylistic comparisons and no documentary evidence suggested any other artist but Bingham as a possibility for authorship.

 

Dusseldorf School Consideration and Influence

 

Artists of the Dusseldorf School—as exhibited by the very popular Dusseldorf Gallery in New York City (circa 1849-60), located a fewblocks from Goupil at 548 Broadway and undoubtedly a gallery known to Bingham—were given early and later consideration as possible authors and were subsequently rejected.  No stylistic comparisons could be supported to leading artists of the Dusseldorf school including: Lessing, Gude, Hildebrandt, Kohler, Achenbach, and many others.  

Bingham's acquaintance with this school likely began somewhat casually in New York and continued during his sojourn of twenty-eight months during 1857-1859 in the Dusseldorf artists colony.  During this time Bingham concentrated on painting two large portraits of Washington and Jefferson commissioned by the State of Missouri, and a few other paintings, including The Jolly Flatboatmen and Moonlight Scene: Castle on the Rhine. Earlier serious consideration of Horse Thief as a possible work from this period has been rejected based on evidence previously noted, not least of which is provided by the Goupil stencil of 1851-53 and the pendant relationship of Daniel Boone.

Conclusion

As the gathered stylistic and documentary evidence conclusively supports, George Caleb Bingham’s hand and his mind have come together with vigor and originality in Horse Thief, an allegorical landscape of major importance within Bingham’s body of work.  Fitting within the artist’s 1851-1853 period of creative activity, but most likely made in 1852, Horse Thief finds secure placement among Bingham’s cycle of paintings dealing with America’s Western frontier.

 




Primary Bibliography

Bloch/1 E. Maurice Bloch, The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham:
A Catalogue Raisonne. University of Missouri Press, 1986.
 

Bloch/2 --George Caleb Bingham: The Evolution of an Artist
Bloch/3 --George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonne
(Bloch 2& 3 are companion volumes). University of California Press, 1967.  

Bloch/4 –The Drawings of George Caleb Bingham With a Catalogue Raisonne. University of Missouri Press, 1975.

Selected Bibliography

Fred R. Kline, Editor.The George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings.  CRS Record # 1: Horse Thief.  Illustration #1 & Research Paper.  Published online at www.GeorgeCalebBingham.org.  Ongoing with revisions from 2006-2012, Santa Fe, NM.

Fred R. Kline. "George Caleb Bingham, Artist of Missouri and the American Frontier". Published online at www.GeorgeCalebBingham.org. Ongoing with revisions from 2006- 2012, Santa Fe, NM

Paul Nagel. George Caleb Bingham, Missouri 's Famed Painter and Forgotten Politician ("Horse Thief" illustrated in color and noted as a new discovery.) University of Missouri Press, April 2005.

Michael Edward Shapiro. George Caleb Bingham. Harry N. Abrams, 1993.

Nancy Rash. The Paintings and Politics of George Caleb Bingham. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1991.


George Caleb Bingham , Exhibition Catalogue with essays by Paul C. Nagel, Barbara Groseclose, Elizabeth Johns, Michael Edward Shapiro, and John Wilmerding. Saint Louis Art Museum. Abrams, New York, 1990.  

Ron Tyler. “George Caleb Bingham, The Native Artist”. American Frontier Life: Early Western Paintings and Prints. Abbeville, New York, 1987.

Henry Adams. “A New Interpretation of Bingham’s Fur Traders Descending the Missouri”. Art Bulletin 65, December 1983.  

Albert Christ-Janer. George Caleb Bingham, Frontier Painter of Missouri. Abrams, New York, 1975.  

Barbara Novak. “George Caleb Bingham, Missouri Classicism”. American Painting of the Nineteenth Century. Prager, New York, 1969.  

John Francis McDermott. George Caleb Bingham, River Portraitist. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1959 [see reference to Horse Thief]

Fern Helen Rusk. George Caleb Bingham, the Missouri Artist, The Hugh Stevens Company, Jefferson City, 1917. [see p.126, reference to Horse Thief]

May Simonds.  "Missouri History as Illustrated by George C. Bingham". Missouri Historical Review, Vol.1-pp.181-190, April 1907. 

--"A Pioneer Painter". American Illustrated Methodist Magazine, Vol. VIII, October 1902 [see pp.71-78, reference to Horse Thief]

 

*****

 

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