"Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze
Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives—whether their work was made 5 minutes or 500 years ago. In this series, popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw looks at great works of art in their historical context. He delves into the time of the artist, explores the present they inhabited, and what shaped their vision and creations.
It is one of the most iconic images in American art—and one of the most reproduced—but its history may be surprising to some. The most famous version is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it’s not the original. Nor was it painted in the United States. Washington Crossing the Delaware was actually painted in Germany, where the original version was on display in Bremen before being destroyed in an Allied bombing raid in WWII. What inspired Emanuel Leutze, who was raised in the United States, to paint the picture in Düsseldorf in 1851? Why is this crossing a moment in history worthy of such an epic portrayal? How accurate is the painting in light of the actual events of the Battle of Trenton? Glenshaw rolls back the clock to Germany in 1851 and Delaware in 1776 to find out.
Glenshaw is an artist, educator, author, and filmmaker with more than 25 years’ experience working across disciplines in the arts, history, and sciences. He teaches drawing for Smithsonian Associates and studied painting at Washington University in St. Louis.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
Art and History Lectures
If you are interested in additional Art + History lectures, view the upcoming schedule:
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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.