LEUTZE, Emanuel Gottlieb
(b. 1816, Schwabisch Gmünd, d. 1868, Washington)

Washington Crossing the Delaware

1851
Oil on canvas, 379 x 648 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This famous event from the American Revolution was painted by German-born Emanuel Leutze, who spent most of his life in the United States. He painted the first version of this picture (destroyed in World War II) in Düsseldorf, where a school of Romantic painting flourished, and immediately painted a second version - this picture - which was sent to America and exhibited throughout the country. A print published in 1853 gave the painting the status of a national monument, in spite of numerous errors in historical detail (the flag, for example, as depicted here was not introduced until six months after the event). Nevertheless, the painting captured and has held the affection of succeeding generations of Americans, for the drama of the episode, despite the melodrama, rings true.