George Caleb Bingham, Verdict of the People, 1854–55.

Petition Demands Saint Louis Museum Halt Loan of Painting for Trump Inauguration

Nearly two thousand people have signed a petition urging Saint Louis Art Museum to cancel its loan of George Caleb Bingham’s painting Verdict of the People, 1854–55, for Donald Trump’s inaugural luncheon on January 20, Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic reports.

Created by art historian Ivy Cooper and artist Ilene Berman, the petition states: “Verdict of the People depicts a small-town Missouri election, and symbolizes the democratic process in mid-nineteenth-century America. We object to the painting’s use as an inaugural backdrop and an implicit endorsement of the Trump presidency and his expressed values of hatred, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. We reject the use of the painting to suggest that Trump’s election was truly the ‘verdict of the people,’ when in fact the majority of votes—by a margin of over three million—were cast for Trump’s opponent. Finally, we consider the painting a representation of our community, and oppose its use as such at the inauguration.”

In response, Brent Benjamin, director of the Saint Louis Museum of Art, said, “The museum takes no position on candidates for public office, nor does it support or oppose individuals elected to such offices. It does, however, support the office of the presidency itself. When the bipartisan Joint Congressional Commission on Inaugural Ceremonies requested the loan of a painting for the inaugural luncheon, it was an honor for the museum to participate in this long-standing tradition.”

Verdict of the People is part of a three-work series. Along with the two other paintings—Stump Speaking, 1853–54, and The County Election, 1852—the canvas captures the essence of democracy. It depicts the announcement of election results outside of a courthouse. Bingham, an American genre painter, was also involved in politics. In 1848, he became one of the first professional artists in office in the US when he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives.