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Love, Life, Death and Mourning
George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811-1879)
Portrait of Thomas Withers Nelson
Oil on canvas, Gilbreath-McLorn Museum Fund, 2003.5
Love, Life, Death and Mourning: Remembrance in Portraits by George Caleb Bingham
The portraits selected for this exhibition commemorate family, love, and life. They were created on various occasions to celebrate a conjugal union or to mourn the passing away of someone's beloved. While traditional statements of position, power, and the social institution of marriage, these paintings also reveal the sentimentalism of an age in which the early death of family members—especially wives and children—was a familiar part of the social landscape. Returning our gaze, Bingham's sitters establish a personal and vivid link with us. Whether painted early or late in his career, Bingham's portraits show a frank and unpretentious likeness that both reflected and defined the American character. Capturing and preserving glimpses of family life and history, these portraits served as mementos in life and in death.
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