Unveiled in America at the Stuyvesant Institute in Manhattan in 1851, Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware attracted a level of interest and praise as noteworthy as the painting’s twelve foot by twenty-four foot dimensions.

Within four months of the exhibit’s opening, more than fifty thousand people viewed the panoramic painting of General George Washington leading his Continental Army across the icy Delaware River on Christmas night 1776. Reflecting the general sentiments of art critics, the press, and his fellow exhibit-goers, Vermont businessman Morillo Noyes wrote: “It is certainly a meritorious & magnificent work of art, and forcibly illustrates the skill, beauty & grandeur of man’s efforts when perseveringly directed for a worthy & noble end.”1

Today, Leutze’s masterpiece hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and it’s estimated that, throughout its nearly 170-year life, hundreds of thousands of people have viewed this icon of American history. . . .

Endnotes

1. Eli Wilner and Suzanne Smeaton, Setting a Jewel: Re-creating the Original Frame for Washington Crossing the Delaware (Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 2011), 32.

2. John K. Howat, Washington Crossing the Delaware (Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin), 295.

3. Carrie Rebora Barrett, Washington Crossing the Delaware: Restoring and American Masterpiece (Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 2011), 5.

4. Howat, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 292.

5. Howat writes: “The artist Worthington Whittredge, who along with Eastman Johnson worked in Leutze’s studio, gave an eyewitness account of the preparation of the picture in his autobiography. . . . ‘A large portion of the great canvas is occupied by the sky. Leutze mixed the colors for it overnight and invited Andreas Achenbach [the leading landscape painter of the Dusseldorf school] and myself to help him cover the canvas the next day, it being necessary to blend the colors easily, to cover it all over in one day. It was done; Achenbach thought of the star, and painted it, a lone almost invisible star, the last to fade in the morning light.’” See Howat, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 292.

6. Howat, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 299.

7. Howat, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 297–98.

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