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George Caleb Bingham
(after, 1811 - 1879)

Stump Speaking
Engraving by Gautier, 1856
27 1/8 x 30 1/2 inches
Published by Fishel, Adler, and Schwartz, New York.

One of the icons of 19th century American art. Stump Speaking is perhaps his most successful image of frontier American politics. A large group of male residents of Missouri gather near an oak tree on someone's farm on a late summer afternoon to listen to a number of candidates, one of whom is enumerating his positions. The audience listens attentively but without great animation. Behind the speaker sits another candidate with a pad, thought to be Bingham, who was in politics for quite a few years. He is apparently taking notes for his refutation of the present speaker, but we are tempted to imagine that he is drawing the scene, abandoning his personal involvement for a moment to view the scene objectively, as we are doing. The particular issues are unimportant. It is the event itself, an illustration of the sovereignty of the people, to which Bingham wants to draw attention.

Bingham had several visions of American frontier life, which evolved to realization throughout the 1840s and 50s. They are usually set late in the afternoon so that the light hits the participants from the side and casts a dark shadow. Nearly all depict working men at leisure: listening, watching, floating down a river. The pervading feeling is optimistic and life-affirming.

The original painting is owned by Boatmen's National Bank of St. Louis. It was painted in 1854. It made a pair to The County Election, which gives a more Hogarthian vision of politics, and the two were paired again as prints.

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Late 19th and early 20th century American art with an emphasis on the 1930s since 1977
international fine print dealers association