"The Inception of the Birth of Oregon"
by the artist
Theodore Gegoux (1850-1931)
Began in 1916 and copyrighted in January 1920, signed by Gegoux in 1923
Canvas size 7 feet by 11 feet
On exhibit in the Visitor's Center at Champoeg State Park, Oregon
Photo Courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
This painting depicts the historic moment in Oregon history, when on May 2, 1843, the assembled group of pioneers voted on whether or not to organize a provisional government for Oregon territory. Gegoux was the first to attempt to paint this meeting, two other artists Gilstrap and O'Brien were recruited but died before any paint went on canvas. Gegoux's work remains the most carefully researched artistic conception. Joseph Meek, seen in the center of the painting, his hat raised over his head, was reported to have called for the pioneers to divide into two groups, one for and one against the proposed government.
Gegoux captures this moment on the canvas. He based this work on descriptions and late-in-life likenesses, mostly daguerreotypes and tintypes collected by the Oregon Historical Society. He painted portraits of those in attendance for whom he could find likenesses. Other figures were added based on descriptions to fill in the background.
Originally the painting included a figure of Father F. N. Blanchet. Click here to see the original form of the painting in black and white.
The final version of the painting, which is shown here, depicts Solomon H. Smith to the left of Joe Meek. The image of Father Blanchet was painted over, because his attendance at the meeting could not be verified.
For a more detailed description, in Gegoux's own words see About Champoeg