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The Trappers' Return, 1851

  • George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811-1879

Oil on canvas

  • Unframed: 26 1/4 × 36 1/4 inches (66.7 × 92.1 cm)
  • 31 1/4 × 41 1/16 × 2 3/4 inches (79.4 × 104.3 × 7 cm)

Gift of Dexter M. Ferry, Jr.


On View

  • American W273


American Art before 1950

Raised in central Missouri, Bingham found the most enduring subjects of his art in the trappers and boatmen who populated his state’s great rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi. Combining the elements of water, foliage, hazy morning light, river men, and their simple crafts, he created a sequence known as “The River Paintings.” The Trappers’ Return is the second version of Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which is generally considered the artist’s finest work in the genre idiom. Both pictures present a dugout canoe moving slowly downstream with an old French trader paddling in the stern and his son amidships with an animal chained to the bow. The arrangement of the figures and the general mood invest them with a sense of timelessness all the more striking for the specificity of the scenes depicted.

Signed, center right, on canoe: G C BINGHAM |1851

1851, H. Reed. John J. Herrick (The Castle, Tarryton on the Hudson, New York, USA)

his son, George T. Herrick. John B. Ingham (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA). 1950, The Old Print Shop (New York, New York, USA). 1950-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

The American Art Union, New York. "Register of Works of Art." Manuscript in the collection of the New-York Historical Society, n. d., no. 2971. [as DUG-OUT] The American Art Union, New York. "Committee of Management Minutes, May 15, 1851." Manuscript in the collection of the New-York Historical Society, no. 173, 1851. [as DUG-OUT] Rusk, Fern Helen. George Caleb Bingham, The Missouri Artists. Jefferson City, MO., 1917, pp. 51, 122. Christ-Janer, Albert. George Caleb Bingham of Missouri: The Story of an Artist. New York,1940, pp. 55, 57. Richardson, Edgar P. "The Trapper's Return by George Caleb Bingham." Bulletin of the DIA 30, 3/4 (1950-1951): pp. 81-84. __________________. The Art Quarterly 14, 1 (Spring 1951): pp. 78-83 (ill.). The French in America. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1951, no. 205. Hundert Jahre Amerikanische Malerei 1800-1900. American Federation of Arts. Traveling, 1952, no. 6. Baur, John I. H. American Painting in the 19th Century. New York, 1953, p. 47. American Painting: The Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, 1954, no. 35. Mostra di Puttura Americana del XIX Secolo. Exh. cat., la Galleria Nazionale d’arte Moderna. Rome, 1954, p. 26, no. 33. Richardson, Edgar P. Painting in America. New York, 1956, p. 54. Apollo 65, 387 (May 1957): p. 186. American Classics of the Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., The Carnegie Institute. Pittsburgh, 1957, no. 24. McDermott, J. F. George Caleb Bingham, River Portraitist. Norman, OK., 1959, pp. 82-83, 416-417 (pl. 34). Taggert, Ross E. "George Caleb Bingham Sesquicentennial Exhibition." The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Bulletin 3, 3 (1961): pp. 3-26, cat. 15. Bloch, E. Maurice. George Caleb Bingham: The Evolutions of an Artist. Berkeley, 1967, pp. 83-84 (pl. 48). __________________. George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné. Los Angeles, 1967, p. 86, no. 222. Cumming, Frederick J., and Charles H. Elam, eds. DIA Illustrated Handbook. Detroit, 1971, p. 141. Curry, Lary. The American West. Los Angeles, 1972, p. 187, no. 39 (pl. 6). Gilbert, Bil. The Trailblazers. New York, 1973, pp. 66-67. Constant, Alberta Wilson. Paintbox on the Frontier: The Life and Times of George Caleb Bingham. New York, 1974, p. 119. Pike, Donald G. "Images of an Era: The Mountain Man." American West 12 (September 1975): p. 38 (ill.). Christ-Janer, Albert. George Caleb BIngham. New York, 1975, p. 49 (col. pl. 54). Bloch, E. Maurice. The Drawings of George Caleb Binghma; with a Catalogue Raisonné. Columbia, MO., 1975, pp. 19, 175-177. Wight, Frederick S. The Potent Image. New York, 1976, p. 240 (ill.). Heritage and Horizon: American Painting, 1776-1976. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Gallery. Buffalo, 1976, no. 17 (ill.). The River: Images of the Mississippi. Exh. cat., The Walker Art Center. Minneapolis, 1976, p. 31, no. 7 (ill.). Rivard, Nancy J. "American Paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts." Antiques 114 (November 1978): pp. 1044-1055 (col. pl. 5). Sokol, D.M. Life in Nineteenth Century America. Exh. cat., The Terra Museum of American Art. Evanston, IL, 1981, pp. 17-17, no. 18 (ill.). The Waters of American: Nineteenth Century American Paintings of Rivers, Streams, Lakes, and Waterfalls. Exh. cat., Historical New Orleans Collection. New Orleans, 1984, p. 58. Kan, Michael, and William H. Peck. 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 196-197 (ill.). Bloch, E. Maurice. The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné. Columbia, Mo., 1986, cat. 253, pp. 13, 196-197 (ill.). American Nineteenth Century Landscape Painting. Exh. cat., National Museum. Stockholm, 1986, p. 54 (fig. 8). Pictures of the New World: American Paintings from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., Nationalgalerie. Berlin, 1989. Shaw, Nancy Rivard, ed. American Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts. New , 1991, pp. 37-39 (ill.). Beal, Graham W. J. American Beauty: Paintings from the Detroit Institute of Arts 1770-1920. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. London, 2002, no. 23, pp. 33-35. (Repro.).

George Caleb Bingham, The Trappers' Return, 1851, oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Dexter M. Ferry, Jr., 50.138.