Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851 painting)

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Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851 painting)
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{{short description|1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze}}{{About|the Emanuel Leutze painting|the actual event|George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River|other works|Washington Crossing the Delaware (disambiguation){{!}}Washington Crossing the Delaware}}{{Use mdy dates|date=December 2018}}

Washington Crossing the Delaware is an 1851 oil-on-canvas painting by the German-American artist Emanuel Leutze.It commemorates General George Washington during his famous crossing of the Delaware River with the Continental Army on the night of December 25–26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War. That action was the first move in a surprise attack against the German Hessian allied mercenary forces at Trenton, New Jersey, in the Battle of Trenton on the morning of December 26.The original was part of the collection at the Kunsthalle in Bremen, Germany, and was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1942, during World War II. Leutze painted two more versions, one of which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The other was in the West Wing reception area of the White House in Washington, D.C., but in March 2015, was put on display at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, Minnesota.


(File:Übergang Washingtons über den Delaware.jpg|thumb|Washington Crossing the Delaware (1849–1850)Original painting by Leutze)Emanuel Leutze grew up in America, then returned to Germany as an adult, where he conceived the idea for this painting during the Revolutions of 1848. Hoping to encourage Europe's liberal reformers through the example of the American Revolution, and using American tourists and art students as models and assistants, among them Worthington Whittredge and Andreas Achenbach, Leutze finished the first painting in 1850. Just after it was completed, the first version was damaged by fire in his studio,NEWS,weblink Permanent Revolution, New York magazine, Sep 10, 2012, subsequently restored, and acquired by the Kunsthalle Bremen. On September 5, 1942, during World War II, it was destroyed in a bombing raid by the Allied forces.BOOK, Spassky, Natalie, American Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born between 1816 and 1845, 2, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1985, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17–18,weblink 978-0-87099-439-5, harv, The second painting, a full-sized replica of the first, was begun in 1850 and placed on exhibition in New York in October 1851. More than 50,000 people viewed it. The painting was originally bought by Marshall O. Roberts for $10,000 (at the time, an enormous sum). After changing ownership several times, it was finally donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by John Stewart Kennedy in 1897. Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth, Leutze's companion piece to Washington Crossing the Delaware is displayed in the Heyns (East) Reading Room of Doe Library at the University of California, Berkeley.The painting was lent at least twice in its history. In the early 1950s, it was part of an exhibition in Dallas, Texas. Then, beginning in 1952, it was exhibited for several years at the United Methodist Church in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, not far from the scene of the painting. Today, it is on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.In January 2002, the painting was defaced when a former Metropolitan Museum of Art guard glued a picture of the September 11 attacks to it. No major damage was caused to the painting.Painting gets 9/11 Defacing {{webarchive|url= |date=February 4, 2010 }}The simple frame that had been with the painting for over 90 years turned out not to be the original frame that Leutze designed. A photograph taken by Mathew Brady in 1864 was found in the New York Historical Society in 2007 showing the painting in a spectacular eagle crested frame. The 12 ft x 21 ft carved replica frame was created using this photo by Eli Wilner & Company in New York City. The carved eagle-topped crest alone is 14 ft wide.The third version of the painting, a smaller-scale version of the original, hung in the White House receiving room from 1979 to 2014. The painting was acquired by Mary Burrichter and Bob Kierlin, founders of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, Minnesota, and put on display as the centerpiece of the museum's American collection.NEWS, Abbe, Mary, 'Washington Crossing the Delaware' lands in Winona museum,weblink 17 May 2015, Star Tribune, 24 March 2015,


The painting is notable for its artistic composition. General Washington is emphasized by an unnaturally bright sky, while his face catches the upcoming sun. The colors consist of mostly dark tones, as is to be expected at dawn, but there are red highlights repeated throughout the painting. Foreshortening, perspective and the distant boats all lend depth to the painting and emphasize the boat carrying Washington.The people in the boat represent a cross-section of the American colonies, including a man in a Scottish bonnet and a man of African descent facing backward next to each other in the front, western riflemen at the bow and stern, two farmers in broad-brimmed hats near the back (one with bandaged head), and an androgynous rower in a red shirt, possibly meant to be a woman in man's clothing. There is also a man at the back of the boat wearing what appears to be Native American garb to represent the idea that all people in the new United States of America were represented as present in the boat along with Washington on his way to victory and success.According to the 1853 exhibition catalogue, the man standing next to Washington and holding the flag is Lieutenant James Monroe, future President of the United States, and the man leaning over the side is General Nathanael Greene.{{sfnp|Spassky|1985|loc=pp. 20–21}} Also, General Edward Hand is shown seated and holding his hat within the vessel.

Historical inaccuracies

The flag depicted is the original flag of the United States (the "Stars and Stripes"), the design of which did not exist at the time of Washington's crossing. The flag's design was specified in the June 14, 1777, Flag Resolution of the Second Continental Congress, and flew for the first time on September 3, 1777—well after Washington's crossing in 1776. The historically accurate flag would have been the Grand Union Flag, officially hoisted by Washington himself on January 1, 1776, at Somerville, Massachusetts, as the standard of the Continental Army and the first national flag.Washington's stance, obviously intended to depict him in a heroic fashion, would have been very hard to maintain in the stormy conditions of the crossing. Considering that he is standing in a rowboat, such a stance would have risked capsizing the boat.WEB,weblink N.Y. museum to unveil more accurate version of George Washington's Delaware River crossing, Associated Press, December 24, 2011,, The Star Ledger, December 25, 2011, However, historian David Hackett Fischer has argued that everyone would have been standing up to avoid the icy water in the bottom of the boat, while the actual Durham boats used were much larger having a flat bottom, higher sides, a broad beam (width) of some eight feet and a draft of 24–30 inches deep.Fischer, 2004, pp. 216–217


File:1999 NJ Proof.png|thumb|The painting depicted on the New Jersey state quarter ]]William H. Powell produced a painting that owes an artistic debt to Luetze's work, depicting Oliver Perry transferring command from one ship to another during the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The original painting now hangs in the Ohio Statehouse, and Powell later created a larger, more light toned rendering of the same subject which hangs in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. In both of Powell's works, Perry is shown standing in a small boat rowed by several men in uniform. The Washington painting shows the direction of travel from right to left, and the Perry image shows a reverse direction of motion, but the two compositions are still similar. Both paintings feature one occupant of the boat with a bandaged head.In 1953, the American pop artist Larry Rivers painted Washington Crossing the Delaware, which is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.On seeing Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Larry Rivers retrieved June 22, 2008 The painting has also inspired copies by Roy Lichtenstein (an abstract expressionist variant painted c. 1951) and Robert Colescott (a parody titled George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware painted in 1975). * Grant Wood makes direct use of Leutze's painting in his own Daughters of Revolution. The painting is a direct jab at the D.A.R., scrutinizing what Wood interpreted as their unfounded elitism."Washington Crossing the Delaware" is a 1936 sonnet by David Shulman. It refers to the scene in the painting, and is a 14-line rhyming sonnet of which every line is an anagram of the title.




  • Anne Hawkes Hutton, Portrait of Patriotism: Washington Crossing the Delaware. Chilton Book Company, 1975. {{ISBN|0-8019-6418-0}}. A detailed history of the painting, the actual crossing of the Delaware by American forces, and the life of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.
  • BOOK, Fischer, David Hackett, Washington's Crossing, 2004, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England; New York, 0-19-517034-2, David Hackett Fischer,weblink fischer,
  • JOURNAL, Carrie Rebora Barratt, Barratt, Carrie Rebora, Washington Crossing the Delaware and the Metropolitan Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 2011, 5–19,
  • JOURNAL, Howat, John K., Washington Crossing the Delaware, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, March 1968, 26, 7, 289–299,weblink January 27, 2012, 10.2307/3258337,
  • WEB,weblink Winona museum gets Washington Crossing Delaware painting, March 24, 2015, Digital First Media, Twin, December 15, 2015,

External links

{{Commons category|Washington Crossing the Delaware}} {{George Washington|state=collapsed}}{{Authority control}}

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