|Bingham, George Caleb|
One of the leading American genre painters of the mid-nineteenth century,
George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) created some of the most memorable views of
American small town life. Bingham was fascinated by the democratic process
and by the ways in which it permeated everyday existence in communities far
removed from the big cities. Inspired perhaps by scenes he had witnessed
personally, Bingham depicted the days when ballots were handwritten and
politicians addressed the local public from soap boxes or tree stumps.
Nostalgic and sentimental, Bingham's views were perhaps not fully realistic
visions of small town American life in the 19th century, but they did
represent the ideal of a rural, innocent, and peaceful existence for which
so many late 19th-century Americans longed - especially on the eve of the
Civil War. Still, Bingham's subtle and splendid engravings offer a glimpse
into a time when the democratic system was still, in many ways, a grassroots
movement and when all Americans felt eager to participate.
The County Election