February 22—May 17

About the Exhibition

Dubbed "the Missouri artist," George Caleb Bingham moved to the state as a child and, by the 1840s, began painting the scenes of western life for which he is now famous. Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River celebrates his iconic depictions of frontier life by bringing together his river paintings and drawings for the first time in decades.

The 22 paintings on view in Navigating the West include masterworks from the Museum's American collection and others on loan from prominent museums and private collections. They are joined by more than 50 related drawings and prints, as well as the recently restored Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley. Painted around 1850, at the same time as Bingham's masterworks, the 348-foot-long Panorama provides another depiction of life along the western rivers.

Navigating the West is the most extensive and ambitious of three coinciding explorations of landscape and the river in 19th-century American art. Visitors are invited to enjoy the free exhibitions Scenic Wonder: An Early American Journey Down the Hudson River and Thomas Cole's Voyage of Life.

Co-organized by the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Navigating the West will travel to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in June. The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly, full-color catalogue that is available in the Museum Shops.

[top] George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879; Jolly Flatboatmen in Port, 1857 (detail); oil on canvas; 47 1/4 x 69 5/8 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum Purchase 123:1944

[left] George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879; Boatman, for Boatmen on the Missouri (1846); brush, black ink, and wash over paper; 9 1/2 x 8 inches; Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Stuart P. Feld

[right] George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879; Skillet-beater (2), for Jolly Flatboatmen in Port (1857) and The Jolly Flatboatmen (1877–78) with alterations; brush, black ink, and wash over pencil heightened with white gouache on tan wove paper; 13 5/8 x 11 3/4 inches; Lent by The People of Missouri, Acquired through the generosity of The Kansas City Star



Members receive free admission to the exhibition.


  • $14 for adults
  • $12 for seniors
  • $6 for children ages 6 to 12

All tickets—including free tickets—are timed and dated, and advance tickets are recommended.

Advance tickets are available at the Museum or through MetroTix. There is a limit of 6 advanced tickets on Fridays. Tickets purchased or reserved through MetroTix will be assessed a service fee. Same-day tickets are available in person at the Museum only. When ordering through MetroTix, Members must present a special promo code to receive the correct number of free Member tickets. To obtain your specific code, please visit members.slam.org/code or call 314.655.5335.

George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879; The Wood-Boat, 1850 (detail); oil on canvas mounted on board; 25 1/8 x 30 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum Purchase 14:1951

Plan Your Visit

[above]George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879; The Jolly Flatboatmen, 1846; oil on canvas; 38 1/8 x 48 1/2 inches; Manoogian Collection

Multimedia tours

A great way to enjoy Navigating the West is to take a self-guided multimedia tour, which you can download for free by clicking on the icon to the right. Don't forget to bring your digital device, along with earbuds or headphones, when you come to the exhibition.

Multimedia tours are available on a limited number of Museum iPads. Visitors may use these devices when they are available, however they are strongly encouraged to download the app for free on their own devices. During Free Fridays, there is a $5 charge for using Museum iPads.

Exhibition catalogue

The 200-page exhibition catalogue offers background of many of the works on view and investigates Bingham's creative process through comparisons of infrared images of 17 of his paintings. The full-color book is available in the Museum Shops.

Group tours

Guided tours for 10 or more participants must be scheduled online. Group tours for Navigating the West are not available on Fridays.


During the run of the exhibition, the elegant and approachable menu at Panorama will include special dishes inspired by Navigating the West. On February 20, during the exhibition's opening weekend, Chef Ivy Magruder will host a special, Art at the Table dinner that promises A Culinary Journey through the Mississippi River Valley.

Know before you go

Located in Forest Park in the heart of St. Louis, the Art Museum is easy to reach by car, bus, or Metro; and drivers will find both underground parking at the Museum and free parking nearby. If you haven't visited in a while, you may want to brush up on the gallery maps for the expanded Museum.

The Art Museum welcomes all visitors and strives to make its building and programs accessible to everyone. Photography is not allowed in Navigating the West, but you may take non-flash, non-commercial photos in our permanent collection galleries.

The last entry to Navigating the West is one hour before the Museum closes.


[above] George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879; Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, 1845 (detail); oil on canvas; 29 1/4 x 36 1/4 inches; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Morris K. Jesup Fund, 1933 (33.61); Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Members See it Free!

Museum Members enjoy free admission to Navigating the West, as well as invitations to special events and valuable discounts on dining, shopping, and parking. Join today to enjoy the many wonderful benefits of membership.

Member Preview Days

Be among the first to see the exhibition during two preview days exclusively for Members, with live music, hands-on activities, and a special Members-only lecture by one of the exhibition's organizing curators.
Learn more

Exhibition Ticketing for Members

Museum Members receive free timed tickets to the exhibition on every visit. Your membership level determines the number of tickets you may receive. Advance tickets for the exhibition and select Member programs are recommended for best availability.

Advance tickets are available in person at the Information Centers or through MetroTix. When ordering through MetroTix, Members must present a promo code to receive free tickets. To retrieve your promo code, call the Membership Office at 314.655.5335 or click here. All MetroTix orders, including Member tickets, will include a $3 per ticket fee.


Art at the Table

A Culinary Journey Through the Mississippi River Valley
Friday, February 20, 7:00 pm
Panorama Restaurant

Join Chef Ivy Magruder for a unique, four-course feast in Panorama. The themed dinner starts with an exclusive pre-dinner gallery tour.
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The People of Missouri Save the Bingham Drawings
The Honorable Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, Charles E. Valier, and Nancy W. Work
Sunday, February 22, 2:00 pm
The Farrell Auditorium. Free.

Hear the amazing story of a homegrown campaign to save important works of art for future generations from three people key to its success. In 1974, Governor Christopher S. "Kit" Bond and his counsel, Charles E. Valier, launched a campaign to purchase a group of more than one hundred drawings by Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham slated for auction and likely dispersal. Art historian Nancy W. Work curated a traveling exhibition of Bingham's paintings and drawings to build awareness throughout the state and beyond. Citizens young and old as well as businesses contributed to the cause, ultimately keeping the drawings together and in Missouri. A selection of the drawings saved by the 1974 campaign, on loan from The Bingham Trust, are included in the Museum's special exhibition Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham & the River.

Film Presentation

Navigating the Rivers: A Collection of Modern-Day Stories
Saturday, February 28, 1:00 pm.
The Farrell Auditorium. Free.

This series of five vignettes tells the stories of how today's rivers continue to impact art, music, conservation, work, and recreation. The Navigating the Rivers video series may also be viewed online. It is supported by Bank of America and Mercury Labs.


1865: Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War
Wednesday, March 11, 7:00 pm
The Farrell Auditorium.

The award-winning a cappella quartet Anonymous 4 and fiddler Bruce Molsky will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery and the end of the Civil War at a March 11 performance in the Art Museum's Farrell Auditorium. The 7:00 pm concert—titled 1865: Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War—is part of the final touring season for Anonymous 4.
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SLAM Underground

Friday, March 27, 7:00–10:00 pm

Enjoy music, art making, performance, and a signature cocktail inspired by artist George Caleb Bingham and 19th-century America.

Family Program

Rolling on a River
Sundays in April, 1:00–4:00 pm

Every Sunday, families are invited for free art activities and a kid-friendly gallery tour. In April, visitors can travel back to the time of George Caleb Bingham to learn about life on the American frontier and the Museum's collection of American art.

Gallery Talks

The History of Bingham's Rivers
Thursday, April 9, 11:00 am
Friday, April 10, 6:00 pm
Meet in Sculpture Hall. Free.

Gallery Talks

Race, Gender, and Class in Bingham's Election Series
Thursday, April 16, 11:00 am
Friday, Arpil 17, 6:00 pm
Meet in Sculpture Hall. Free.

Gallery Talks

Thomas Cole's The Voyage of Life
Thursday, April 30, 11:00 am
Friday, May 1, 6:00 pm
Meet in Sculpture Hall. Free.

All events in The Farrell Auditorium, including free events, are ticketed. Tickets to the exhibition and related programs may be purchased or reserved in person at the Museum's Information Centers or through MetroTix. Tickets purchased or reserved through MetroTix will be assessed a service fee.

Modern-Day River Stories

Navigating the River: A Collection of Modern-Day Stories

The rivers were an integral part of the lives of the 19th century Missourians depicted in Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River, and continue to impact our lives today. This series of five two-minute videos profiles fascinating people from the region whose lives are intertwined with the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Video Screening

Saturday, February 28, 1:00 pm. Free*
The Farrell Auditorium

Join us as our sponsors for the video series, Bank of America and Mercury Labs, and the Saint Louis Art Museum present the screening of these five modern-day stories of personal relationships with Missouri's rivers.

Join the event on Facebook.

*All events in the Farrell Auditorium, including free events, are ticketed. Tickets may be obtained in person the day of the event, or reserved in advance by calling 314.534.1111.


Treasure hunters by profession, and storytellers through design, artists Kristin Cassidy and Bryan Payne of Tent Studios in St. Louis create conceptual installations with artifacts excavated from the Mississippi River. Inspired by the river's natural landscape and the treasures collected on their hunts, Kristin and Bryan are today's caretakers of yesterday's memories and lives.


Life's challenges include the loss of loved ones. To honor their late mother, and to form a stronger bond during a transitional period in their lives, brothers Dave, Jeff and Kevin Moore compete annually in the grueling MR340, a race along the Missouri River . Their philosophy: "Life comes at you, same as the river stuff comes at you."


Steve O'Ferrell of AEP River Operations has what it takes to be a barge captain - patience, skill and a certain personality. If you wear out one pair of boots on the job, he says, you're pretty much stuck on the river. He's worn out quite of few, and has mastered the art of moving commodities up and down the Mississippi River by knowing how to use the river, and not let the river use him.


Architect and associate professor Derek Hoeferlin, and urban planner John Hoal, believe the Mississippi River is the driver of much that happens in St. Louis, yet is invisible to many. They frame this realization within a larger conversation of the importance of the river basin and an awareness of how this environment informs the character and quality of the region. Their dream: that citizens think about new and exciting ways to occupy this unique landscape, "the fourth coast of our nation."


Blues musicians James "Boo Boo" Davis, Big George Brock, Renee Smith, and Rudy "Silver Cloud" Coleman, who perform at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups in St. Louis, have several explanations on what it means to have the blues, both musically and personally. These meanings are rooted in history of this genre, which made its way from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago, with a permanent stop along the way in St. Louis. Their stories and experiences illustrate why this is historically-significant style of music still resonates today.

The exhibition has been organized by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities and in part by generous grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The St. Louis presentation is generously supported by the William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, Trustee. Financial assistance has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.