Babbling About Bingham by The Biographic Bard

George Caleb Bingham, Self-Portrait of the Artist

George Caleb Bingham, Self-Portrait of the Artist

ARTK12’s American Art History, Volume II will be ready for purchase at the end of January 2013. For the first time in the short history of ARTK12 curriculum The Biographic Bard will be making her debut with three new biographies all sung to the tune of popular songs.

Here is a small taste of things to come with a song about George Caleb Bingham.


The Biographic Bard strikes again. This ballad is sung to the tune of Jingle Bells.

Babbling About Bingham
by The Biographic Bard

Born in Virginia State,
And brought up on a farm,
George dwelt in youthful bliss
And lived a life with charm.

But father’s business failed
And left them spent and broke.
Missouri called his family there
And hailed the Bingham folk.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

George Caleb Bingham's The Jolly Flatboatmen

George Caleb Bingham The Jolly Flatboatmen

No farm they looked for there.
A different job they sought.
In town they found another life.
A boarding house they bought.

A big-name portrait ace,
Chester Harding, rang.
Brushes, paints he soon unpacked
And straight to work he sprang.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

A lad of only nine,
Inquisitive and bold,
George watched old Chester work
And did as he was told.

The face of Daniel Boone,
So elderly and gray,
He painted on a canvas bare
Inspiring George that day.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

George Caleb Bingham's Jolly Flatboatmen in Port

George Caleb Bingham’s Jolly Flatboatmen in Port

At the tender age of twelve
Bingham’s father breathed his last.
The choice of George’s work
Came upon him fast.

While he debated paths
Harding reappeared.
Oh what joy George Bingham felt
To start an art career!

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

Painting portraits fair
Of Missouri’s upper class
Gave George a sound career
Distinction that would last.

But portraits weren’t his gift.
Posterity would claim
His genre scenes of daily life
Provide his lasting fame.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

Self Portrait, George Caleb Bingham

Self Portrait, George Caleb Bingham

River life he loved.
It surfaced in his art.
The quiet flow of time
His genre works impart.

His childhood memories
Of watching flatboats glide
Down the old Missouri River bed
Became George Bingham’s guide.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

Luminous and calm
His genre paintings show
The depth of landscape views
And with soft light they glow.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

Old George Bingham belongs
To a calm artistic school.
Luminism is its name
And lighting is its tool.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

George led a busy life.
Thought politics was fun.
Many a race he ran
And many a race he won.

George Caleb Bingham's The Wood Boat

George Caleb Bingham’s The Wood Boat

Politics he drew
In three of his great works.
Campaigning, voting, and results
Show how the system works.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

George lived a family life.
Three times a wife he wed.
Four children called him “Dad”
And did what Bingham said.

He spent a long, full life
And when his race he’d run,
He fell ill and died at home
A good life closed and done.

chorus
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to glide
on rivers in the day.
Flatboat men, flatboat men,
jolly all the way,
Genre paintings show us all
the scenes from everyday.

3 Comments Now that's a conversation!

Joan Stack

Hi there,

I am the Curator of Art Collections at the State Historical Society of Missouri. I do a lot of work on Bingham and am intrigued by this fun song designed to get kids interested in the artist. What led you to make this artist the subject of song?

Joan

Reply
Kristin

Hi Joan,

George Caleb Bingham is one of 8 artists that I discuss in Volume III of my series of children’s books on American Art. The aim of my series is to teach kids about art by having fun. A straightforward biography does not catch a child’s attention as well as something more creative, like a song. In my books I use a variety of writing genre’s like newspaper articles, interviews and advertisements to convey information about art. The Biographic Bard is one of my newest characters and it seemed appropriate that he put Bingham’s biography to song because the flatboatmen are having such a good time with their music in The Jolly Flatboatmen.

Volume III also contains an interview with Bingham where we discuss his painting Fur Traders Descending the Missouri. This volume should be published and available by Dec. 1st.

Thank you for your interest in my work.

Reply
Joan Stack

Hi Kristin,

Thanks so much for your reply. I love your interest in finding ways to get children interested in Bingham! This Halloween I did a flashlight tour of our Bingham gallery as the ghost of Bingham’s 2nd wife Eliza, so I identify with your methods. If you have any questions about the artist, feel free to contact me directly via e-mail. I wrote the introduction to a 500 page book of Bingham’s letters and have done a lot of scholarship on his paintings.

All the best,

Joan

Reply

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