The American Artist: The Life and Times of George Caleb Bingham

58 min. Shane Seley & Keith Johnson, dist. by Wide Awake Films, www.binghamfilm.com. 2018. DVD UPC 851096001248. $19.95; Blu-ray $24.95. ART-GENERAL
George Caleb Bingham (1811–79), often referred to as the "Missouri Artist," was a self-taught Luminist-style painter. He began his career in the mid-1800s with portraits and scenes of frontier life along the Missouri River. After entering politics (he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1848), his work began to focus on political scenes. This beautifully filmed docudrama, shot on location in Kansas City and Arrow Rock, where Bingham lived and worked, follows his beginnings, the development of his career, the effects of the Civil War and politics on his work, and the rediscovery of his output many decades after his death. The live-action scenes (starring Gregory Sporleder as Bingham) are interspersed with commentary from art experts and museum curators, with special emphasis on his best known piece, Fur Traders Descending the Mississippi. The film is narrated by actor Keith David and features music by Yo-Yo Ma.
VERDICT An important and engaging film that will be of interest to history and art students as well as general audiences.
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