Born in 1811 in Virginia, George Caleb Bingham and is known for his remarkable paintings depicting political and social life on the frontier, as well as landscapes and portraits. He is believed to have been inspired to paint by Chester Harding, a painter who was visiting the area where Bingham lived. When he was 12 his father died. Although the family was poor his mother encouraged his artistic talent and paid an art teacher, Mattie Wood, to give him lessons. At the age of 16, he left to learn a trade in Missouri and soon gained experience as a lawyer and preacher, though he painted portraits in his spare time.
By 1833, he was supporting himself solely as a portrait painter. He soon traveled east to study the work of other artists and became intrigued by genre paintings. This is when he turned to painting frontier life and soon became associated with the American Art Union. These works including Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845) and The Concealed Enemy (1845), solidified his title as one of America’s greatest genre painters. He became involved in politics and was elected to the Missouri legislature, though he continued to paint. During the Civil War, he displayed his outrage at a Union general in the painting Martial Law or Order No. 11 (1868), one of his most famous pieces. He became the University of Missouri’s first art professor after the war ended and died in 1879.