Complete Record & Research
GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM
“YOUNG FISHERMAN, HUDSON RIVER PALISADES”
George Caleb Bingham
Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades
E. Maurice Bloch, The Drawings of George Caleb Bingham,
p.123, illustrated p.136, #61A “Interested Onlooker”
E. Maurice Bloch, THE PAINTINGS OF GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM: A CATALOGUE RAISONNE. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1986. [ Noted as B-CRP and catalogue references as CR-1 to 561 ]
E. Maurice Bloch, THE DRAWINGS OF GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM-WITH A CATALOGUE RAISONNE. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1975.
Fred R. Kline, THE GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM CATALOGUE RAISONNE SUPPLEMENT OF PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS. Ongoing and published at WWW.GeorgeCalebBingham.org , 2005-present [ Fourteen works added as of September 2011 ]
Fred R. Kline, “George Caleb Bingham: Artist of Missouri and the American Frontier”. Published at WWW.GeorgeCalebBingham.org , 2005.
George Caleb Bingham (1811-1877)
“Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades”, ca.1855 (painted in New York)
Oil on Canvas
24.75 x 30 inches
Verso: Goupil & Co stencil circa 1855
Examined 9-6-2011 by Julian Baumgartner, Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration, Chicago, IL
Good, stable condition on original fine weave canvas; old animal glue relining to medium weave canvas; surface of painting is smooth, precisely laid down with no imperfections; minor inpainting and repair in outlying areas; conservation recommended by J.B. (Sept. 6, 2011): light cleaning, re-varnish, minor re-paint of old repair; optional new state-of the-art lining.
Examined 10.12.2011 by Allison Langley, The Art Institute of Chicago
Essentially in agreement with Julian Baumgartner’s report (above). Relining not recommended. Infrared photographs revealed a related under-drawing and stencil.
Exhibition (oldest first)
New York, NY, Probably Cosmopolitan Art Association Exhibition, as “Bingham: View on the Passaic River” (along with four additional “Bingham” paintings apparently in the Hudson River genre), 1855-56.
New Haven, CT, Yale University Art Gallery (circa 1955-1960s; on loan from Dr. Pratt; as American School, 19th c.).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, “18th and 19th Century American Paintings from Private Collections” [Collection of Dr. Dallas Bache Pratt], June 27-September 11, 1972 (as American School, 19th c.).
Santa Fe, NM, “George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings, ‘Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades’ #14”, online at www,GeorgeCalebBingham.org, ongoing from October 1, 2011.
In all likelihood with Cosmopolitan Art Association, New York City; sold to unidentified private collector as “Bingham: View on the Passaic River”, 1855-56.
Rockwell and Avis Gardiner (Antique dealers) to 1954
With Harry Shaw Newman, The Old Print Shop, New York City, and sold to Dr. Dallas Bache Pratt 1955; as attributed to John Gadsby Chapman [not upheld].
Collection & Estate of Dr. Dallas Bache Pratt (1914-c.1994), New York, from 1955-to January 20, 1995, as American School, 19th century.
Sotheby’s New York, Sale 6657 “Two Mauds”[Dr. Pratt’s Foundation]-January 20, 1995; designated as: Property from the Collection of the late Dr. Dallas Bache Pratt; offered as: “American School, 19th Century: A Portrait of a Woodsman in a Landscape with Birch Trees Overlooking the Hudson River with Paddle-Wheeler and Flat Rock in the Background”, lot #252, illustrated.
Purchased at the Sotheby’s sale by Renée duPont Harrison, New York
Collection of Renée duPont Harrison and Mason H. Drake Chicago, IL.
“George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings”: #14, “Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades”, 1855. Website publication from October 1, 2011: www.GeorgeCalebBingham.org . Publication projected: University of Missouri Press, Columbia, MO.
Opinion & Notes
“Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades”, in all likelihood, is Bingham's last work in his signature genre of river paintings (ca.1855), and his only known painting of the Hudson River scene.
Brief Description: A circa1855 landscape of some narrative quality with a fashionable young fisherman with rod, reel, and basket standing prominently by a stand of trees on elevated ground above a river with watercraft
activity and a view of Palisades on the opposite shoreline.
Bingham’s distinctive and typical style in the range of his paintings can be clearly recognized in the related qualities of “Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades”, as follows:
1. Geometrically organized composition.
2. Carefully designed light and dark shading.
3. Stage-like setting with centered focus.
4. Classically posed sculpture-like figure coordinated with a study drawing which for the most part is modeled into the painting.
5. Selective and often personalized details of the natural and man-made environment, often with roseate tint on rocky or mountainous features and distinctive trees, several with exact knothole-motif.
6. Earth-toned palette.
In addition, “Young Fisherman”, based on the evidence of the Block-CR of Paintings, may be considered the single discovered work from Bingham’s previously unacknowledged Hudson River genre, in all likelihood a series of paintings of which at least five recorded paintings were known to exist from the documented 1855-56 exhibition list of the Cosmopolitan Art Association, New York City; as listed: “Meeker’s Farm, Mount Orange, New Jersey” (CR-503); “View on the Passaic River” (CR-504); “A Landscape” (CR-505); “View near Lake George” (CR-506); “Washington’s Head-Quarters/..at Newburg on the Hudson” (CR-507). Three of which—CR-503, CR-504, CR-505—are the same 25 x 30 size as “Young Fisherman” (B-CRP,pp.259-60). The four lost paintings may still be extant, their expected quality encouraging preservation and future recovery.
Although Bloch, who never saw the paintings, had serious doubts of the likelihood of the listed paintings being by GCB, the evidence of “Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades” has now proven his assumption to be erroneous. Bloch also suggested another “Bingham” possibility, one “G. H. Bingham”, whose name he likely found in an artist list and whose paintings he does not claim to have actually seen. No pictorial example or printed reference of “G.H. Bingham” has been found after extensive research. In all probability the “G.H.” initials represent an error in the transmission of the early record. Based on the lack of evidence, “G.H. Bingham” can be dismissed as a minor problem in connoisseurship to be solved.
After extensive review of the stylistics of comparative contemporaries, only superficial affinities have been found among the range of the Hudson River School & others including William Tylee Ranney, a leading consideration.
“Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades”, the suggested new title, appropriately fits the subject and the geography. The earlier title from the CAA list—“View on the Passaic River…with a scene in the distance”, C-504)—did, however, provide a useful clue. The location may in fact be reasonably understood to be in the vicinity of the Passaic River-Hudson River area. In any case, titles in lists of 19th century paintings are most often vague and incomplete and made by an untrained eye, as in the ubiquitous “Landscape” title, with no added clue, which is recorded scores of times in Bloch’s catalogue raisonne of Bingham paintings. Given the earlier sketchy title, imagination and intuition become a necessary part of connoisseurship and recorded clues must be interpreted. The orientation of the actual painting with its given geographical details strongly suggests the young fisherman is placed among the trees on the New York side of the Hudson River with the New Jersey Palisades prominently featured in the near distance across the river.
Bingham’s chronology is entirely compatible with circa 1850-56 visits to New York City, a location where he painted and sold many paintings on his own and through the American Art Union, Goupil, Cosmopolitan Art Association, and various other art dealers. However, Bingham did not keep a log of his paintings, rarely signed them, and references to his paintings in his extant letters are most often non-specific. [See Bingham’s published letters: The Missouri Historical Review, 8 vols. October1937-July 1939.] Keeping in mind Bingham’s competitive drive and his boundless energy, there can be little doubt, judging from the evidence of “Young Fisherman”, that he ventured out in 1855 (or earlier) along the Hudson to paint, probably mindful of the popular plein-air sketching method of Hudson River landscapists. The painting itself, however, suggests on-site sketching and later completion in his studio.
A singular model-drawing found in Bingham’s body of drawings holds a closely comparative relationship in its figurative pose to “Young Fisherman”--see above #61A “Interested Onlooker”. With the full appearance of Bingham’s hidden first figurative idea—an under-drawn sketch of a man within the tree in a related pose (see below) provided by the infrared studies made by The Art Institute of Chicago—an otherwise lost integral piece of related documentary evidence has appeared and supports Bingham’s typical practice of under-drawing. In this case, Bingham's first idea was disgarded and the smaller scale young fisherman was painted directly without the need for an under-drawing.
Infrared under-drawing in “Young Fisherman” (in tree to right of young man)
We can now see in the development of the painting that the pose of the large man sketched in the tree evolved to the pose of the smaller young fisherman, and both in turn connect to Bingham’s original model drawing 61A-“Interested Onlooker”. We can also see in the young fisherman a facial-type found in generic sporting prints of the period and of a type applied without facial-stylization by Bingham in various paintings of all periods. The young fisherman’s presence, a revision of the original figurative scale and likely due to a chance encounter, introduces a fresh, non-Western character into Bingham’s repertoire: a fashionable young fisherman probably from New York City on a recreational outing. A specific tree at far right offers a signature Bingham tree, with distinctive coloration, bark-style, and characteristic tree-knot detail; as in, close to exactly: “Mississippi Fisherman” (CR-234) and “Belated Wayfarers” (CR-261).
After extensive study of the painting, as well as review and research into the complete works of George Caleb Bingham, the stylistic and documentary evidence of “Young Fisherman, Hudson River Palisades” is entirely persuasive to establish it as an autograph painting by George Caleb Bingham, circa 1855, and accordingly it will be published as #14 in the “George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement of Paintings and Drawings” (in-progress; #14 published October 1, 2011).