Research: Luce Center for American Art

Shooting for the Beef
Accession #40.342
Artist George Caleb Bingham
TitleShooting for the Beef
Date1850
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions33 3/8 x 49 in. (84.8 x 124.5 cm)
SignedSigned lower left: "G.C. Bingham / 1850."
Credit LineDick S. Ramsay Fund
LocationAmerican Identities: Everyday Life / A Nation Divided

Curatorial Remarks: In Shooting for the Beef, a group of men and dogs is assembled in front of a rough, wooden “Post-Office-Grocery” for a shooting contest—a typical western pastime. The prize is the steer at the far left. Their target is a nail on the board leaning against the dead tree at the right, below a sign that reads “To Boonsborough 14 miles.” This town, named for the renowned pioneer Daniel Boone, was in central Missouri’s Boone County. The lively narrative of rough but amiable frontier types and the far-ranging view of the frontier landscape combine to make the painting a vivid representation of the era of Manifest Destiny, when Americans believed in divine approval of the progressive domestication of America and in limitless opportunity for those possessed of the pioneering, competitive spirit.