City Hall, for a time, is in possession of two historical paintings. The public is encouraged to view the portraits of two prominent figures from Boonville's distant past. The oil on canvas pieces were painted by George Caleb Bingham, an artist that gained famed after his death for his portrayals of Missouri frontier life.
In 1781, a British General named Cornwallis surrendered to his counterpart in Yorktown, Virginia – George Washington. Two years later, across the Atlantic, the Treaty of Paris was signed. The year following, a couple by the last name of Bingham welcomed Henry Vest into the world. In 1787, a year after Henry's birth, Mary Amend was born in Augusta, Virginia. Bingham and Amend grew, met and were married. Twenty-eight years after the Treaty of Paris was ratified, Henry and Mary became the parents of George Caleb.
History can already be found in Boonville, but rarely is it the type that is traceable to the expulsion of the massive redcoat army through the dedicated work of a few barefoot farmers. It's here and you can go and look at it.
"These two paintings are beautiful and both are relevant to Boonville. Bingham, as many people may know, is a well-respected period artist. Some of his work has fetched a very high price," said Mayor, Julie Thacher.
The 1839 portraits of Jacob Wyan and wife, Nancy, are on display in Main Street's City Hall. The loaned paintings, contrived by George Caleb Bingham, are oil on canvas and were presented by Boonville's Charles Leonard and son, Jamey, on Monday morning. Wyan, who is considered a citizen of prominence in early Boonville, played an influential role in the development of the city. Jacob moved his family from Lincoln County, Kentucky, to Boonville in 1820 and opened a store where our famed Frederick Hotel now sits. Steamboat traffic generated much business for Wyan and ushered him into the role of a prominent businessman.
"We know that their daughter married James Nelson, who was a banker worth millions and that they donated money to build the Nelson Memorial Methodist Church," said Jamey Leonard.
Bingham's luminism classification as an artist is found in works portraying an earlier time along the Missouri River – works that, largely, display frontier life. Another of the artist's paintings can be found at the six-generation Leonard family-owned Ravenswood mansion. In addition to other period-paintings, the mansion, originally a plantation farmhouse, features original furnishings from the 1800s. City Hall's loaned pieces normally hang from a wall there.
Unlike many of George Caleb's action-pieces, his portrait paintings, uniquely, were often crafted in exchange for lodging. As is found in the case of many an artist, Bingham did not attain fame until well after his death.
Boonville's City Hall can be reached at 660-882-2332. For more information on the Ravenswood mansion, please visit http://ravenswoodtours.com/.