Tuesday, May 26, 2020

"Coat Stand"

6 x 16"
oil on panel

I finished this new painting last night,  Memorial Day evening.  It features a sliver of Emanuel Leutze's depiction of Washington Crossing the Delaware - a massive painting nearly 22' x 13' not including the elaborate frame.  

The story behind this famous oil - the event took place on Christmas night in 1776, Washington's aim was to attack Hessians, German auxiliaries fighting on behalf of the British, in Trenton, New Jersey during the American Revolution.  It of course depicts the future first President of America and also the future fifth President James Monroe who's holding the American flag.  

The artist Emanuel Leutze was a German who grew up in America, born 40 years after the Battle of Trenton.  He returned to Germany as an adult, where he painted this moment in history, hoping to inspire and motivate the European liberal Revolutionaries.

A few things where the artist took poetic license - the flag didn't exist until a year after the battle, the boat was more of a raft and Washington was much younger than portrayed and knew enough not to stand up in a rowboat.  Historians don't believe Monroe crossed the Delaware, although he did fight in Trenton and got a bullet in his shoulder that remained for the rest of his life.  The other occupants in the boat were from different walks of life - fur trappers, an African, a Scot, farmers and one woman who represented women who fought and died for freedom.

The painting was damaged by a fire during the first year and Leutze successfully repaired it and completed it before a German art museum acquired it.  That painting was destroyed in 1942 during a WWII bombing by British forces.  Luckily, Leutze created a copy (can you believe it?) after he finished the first one that was shipped to New York City in 1851 where it was displayed in a gallery and at the U. S. Capitol in Washington, DC.  It is now on permanent display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

~ In the NYT obits today was the passing of John Driscoll who owned New York City's oldest art gallery, the Babcock Gallery. I was surprised to read this portion "In 2015, Dr. Driscoll arranged the purchase of one of two surviving versions of Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” from 1851. A collector who had lent it to the White House for 35 years sold it to the founders of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona. It’s probably the most famous American painting west of the Hudson River,” Dr. Driscoll said when it was unveiled. “At auction, this picture would have pulled out not only art collectors but ultrapatriots who are very wealthy.”  Mr. Driscoll died of the COVID-19 virus.

Please click here for a larger view.

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