Michigan State Capitol Dedicates Portrait Of One Its "Missing Governors"

Nov 14, 2016

Artist Joshua Adam Risner stands beneath his portrait of former Michigan governor Kinsley Bingham.
Credit Cheyna Roth, Michigan Public Radio Network

(MPRN-Lansing) The Capitol Commission has been working to restore these so-called “missing governors” for just over a year. Now Governor Kinsley Bingham, who served as governor from 1854 to 1859, will take his place on the walls of the Capitol. 

Valerie Marvin is the Capitol historian. She says Bingham was an untraditional politician.

“He was very much opposed to the expansion of slavery and he actually broke with his party over that – he was initially a Democrat,” she said. “He formed together, with a group of former Democrats, Free Soilers and Whigs, the Republican party. And then he was elected our first Republican governor in Michigan.”

Bingham also advocated for prison reforms and stricter banking laws, and created an agricultural school now known as Michigan State University.

The portrait was painted by Joshua Adam Risner, who also made the ornate frame the portrait is in. He says the portrait was inspired by, but not a copy of, an original portrait of Bingham. 

Former Michigan governor Kinsley Bingham, one of the twelve “missing governors” now has his portrait hanging in the State Capitol.
Credit Cheyna Roth, Michigan Public Radio Network

“I want to say for the artist that the shadow structure is accurate but then all the color that goes on top is like sort of just the way I – like how I brought him to life and that was my own addition,” he said.

Risner said he didn’t alter too much of the original portrait – which shows Bingham from the chest up with a dark background. However, Risner did work to make his subject look a bit more approachable.

“I think the thing that I added is that I make them look a little friendlier. I feel that I have an intuition about these characters and I feel like, I get fixated a little bit on this guy has to look like a wise grandfather.”