Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868)
Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868)
Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868)
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Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868)
4 More
Property from a Prominent Private Collection
EMANUEL LEUTZE (1816-1868)

Washington Crossing the Delaware

EMANUEL LEUTZE (1816-1868)
Washington Crossing the Delaware
signed ‘E. Leutze’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
40 x 68 in. (101.6 x 172.7 cm.)
Painted in 1851.
Goupil, Vibert & Company, New York, commissioned from the artist, until 1858.
Alexander White, (probably) acquired from the above, by 1859.
Sale: Henry Leeds and Co., New York, 22 May 1863, sold by the above.
William H. Webb, New York, acquired from the above.
Sale: H.D. Miner's Art Gallery, New York, First Evening's Sale, A Very Fine Assemblage of Works of Art; Comprising the Private Gallery of Paintings, Statuary, Bronzes and Art Library of Mr. Wm. H. Webb, 29-30 March 1876, lot 65, sold by the above.
Stephen R. Lesher, New York, (probably) acquired from the above.
Arthur Lawrence Lesher, New York, by descent, 1895.
Mrs. Arthur Lawrence Lesher, New York, by descent, 1931.
Mrs. Dewey Everett, New York, by descent, 1946.
Mr. Francis Dewey Everett, Jr., New York, by descent, 1953.
Ambassador and Mrs. J. William Middendorf II, New York, acquired from the above, 1967.
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 25 October 1973, lot 13, sold by the above (as Eastman Johnson, after Emanuel Leutze).
Duane Hillmer, Omaha, Nebraska, acquired from the above.
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 20 April 1979, lot 28, sold by the above (as Eastman Johnson, after Emanuel Leutze).
Manoogian Collection, Taylor, Michigan, acquired from the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2014.
“The Paintings in the Crystal Palace,” The Evening Post, New York, September 13, 1853, p. 2.
“The World of Art. Gallery of Paintings at the Crystal Palace,” New York Herald, September 18, 1853, p. 6.
“Fine Arts,” The Church Record, vol. II, no. 12, Chicago, Illinois, March 1, 1859, p. 188.
“Advertisement by Henry H. Leeds, Auctioneer,” The Evening Post, New York, May 16, 1863, p. 4.
“Advertisement by Henry H. Leeds, Auctioneer,” New York Daily Herald, May 21, 1863, p. 7.
“Sale of Works of Art,” New-York Daily Tribune, May 23, 1863, p. 4.
A.T. Andreas, History of Chicago from the Earliest Period to the Present Time: From the Fire of 1871 until 1885, vol. III, Chicago, Illinois, 1886, p. 759.
“The Metropolitan Museum Re-Opening,” The Art Amateur, vol. 34, no. 1, December 1895, p. 3.
W. Walton, Scribners Magazine, vol. 40, no. 3, September 1906, p. 267 (as Eastman Johnson).
E. French, "An American Portrait Painter of Three Historical Epochs," World's Work, vol. 13, no. 2, December 1906, p. 8323 (as Eastman Johnson).
B.J. Cigrand, “This is the Limit! Did Washington Cross the Rhine and Not the Delaware?,” The Washington Post, January 11, 1914, p. MS1 (as Eastman Johnson).
“Rare Canvas on Sale,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 9, 1932, p. 3.
J.I.H. Baur, An American Genre Painter, Eastman Johnson, Brooklyn, New York, 1940, p. 13 (as Eastman Johnson).
F. von Boetticher, Malerwerke des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, Germany, 1948, p. 894, no. 20 (as Washington Übergang über den Delaware).
R.L. Stehle, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” Pennsylvania History, vol. XXXI, July 1964, pp. 275, 291-93.
“The Sun Magazine,” The Sunday Baltimore Sun, July 9, 1967, p. 4, cover illustration.
J.W. Middendorf II, “Collecting American Nineteenth Century Art,” Antiques, November 1967, p. 684, fig. 5, illustrated (as dated 1853).
J.K. Howat, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, March 1968, pp. 291, 293, no. 3, illustrated.
NBC television, “Meet George Washington,” April 24, 1969.
P. Hills, Eastman Johnson, New York, 1972, p. 11 (as Eastman Johnson).
P. Hills, “The Genre Painting of Eastman Johnson: The Sources and Development of His Style and Themes,” Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1973, pp. 36-40, 196, fig. 11, illustrated (as Eastman Johnson).
Newsweek, vol. 83, 1974, p. 13.
The Collectors Institute Ltd., Postcard for Expo ‘74, Omaha, Nebraska, 1974, illustrated (as Emanuel Leutze/Eastman Johnson).
B. Cotter, Spokanes Expo 74, Charleston, South Carolina, 1974, p. 58 (as Eastman Johnson).
(Possibly) B.S. Groseclose, “’Washington Crossing the Delaware’: The Political Context,” The American Art Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, November 1975, pp. 73-74.
Akron Beacon Journal, May 23, 1976, p. 197.
United States “American Bicentennial Issues: Souvenir Sheets” stamps, issued May 29, 1976, illustrated (as Emanuel Leutze/Eastman Johnson).
R.L. Stehle, The Life and Works of Emanuel Leutze, Washington, 1976, pp. 28, 37, 44-48.
P. Aurandt, Paul Harveys Rest of the Story, New York, 1977, p. 227.
R. Reif, “Auctions: American art to have its day,” New York Times, April 13, 1979, p. C25, illustrated (as Eastman Johnson).
S.B. Conroy, “Art for the White House,” Washington Post, May 19, 1979, illustrated (as Eastman Johnson, after Emanuel Leutze).
Danforth Museum, American Artists in Dusseldorf, 1840-1865, exhibition catalogue, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982, pp. 10, 50, no. 56, illustrated (as Emanuel Leutze and Eastman Johnson).
N. Spassky, et al., American Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. II, New York, 1985, pp. 21-24 (as Eastman Johnson in collaboration with Leutze).
L.H. Giese, “Winslow Homer, Painter of the Civil War,” Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1985, p. 191 (as Eastman Johnson assisting Emanuel Leutze).
J. Brinkley, The Circus Masters Mission, New York, 1989, p. 54 (as Eastman Johnson).
R. Hurlbut, “The Painted Past,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, August 21, 1994 (as Eastman Johnson with Emanuel Leutze).
L.P. Masur, “Review; Picturing History: American Painting, 1770-1930,” The Journal of American History, vol. 81, no. 3, December 1994, p. 1220 (as Eastman Johnson).
K. Bott, Deutsche Künstler in Amerika 1813-1913, Weimar, Germany, 1996, p. 145, no. 57 (as Emanuel Leutze with the extensive collaboration of Eastman Johnson, Washington Überquert den Delaware).
J.K. Howat, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” German-American Cultural Review, Spring 1997, p. 63.
T.A. Carbone, P. Hills, Eastman Johnson: Painting America, exhibition catalogue, Brooklyn, New York, 1999, pp. 18, 45n48, fig. 6, illustrated (as Eastman Johnson).
T.A. Carbone, et al., American Paintings in the Brooklyn Museum, vol. 2, Brooklyn, New York, 2006, p. 703 (as Eastman Johnson after Emanuel Leutze).
L. Bantel, P.H. Hassrick, Forging an American Identity: The Art of William Ranney, Cody, Wyoming, 2006, p. 92 (as Emanuel Leutze and Eastman Johnson).
D. McCullough, 1776: The Illustrated Edition, New York, 2007, pp. 202-03, illustrated (as Eastman Johnson after Emanuel Leutze).
J. Wierich, “Against the Current: Washington Crossing the Delaware and the End of History Painting,” in B. Baumgärtel, ed., The Düsseldorf School of Painting and Its International Influence 1819-1918, Düsseldorf, Germany, 2011, pp. 122-23, fig. 2, illustrated (as Eastman Johnson commissioned by Emanuel Leutze).
J. Wierich, Grand Themes: Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, and American History Painting, University Park, Pennsylvania, 2012, pp. 131, 179n1 (as Emanuel Leutze with the assistance of Eastman Johnson).
K.S. Bodman, Trust But Verify, Washington, D.C., 2018, p. 23 (as Emanuel Leutze and Eastman Johnson).
New York, The Crystal Palace, Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, July 14, 1853-1854, p. 20, no. 616.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Thirty-first Annual Exhibition, May-June 1854, p. 5, no. 48.
Chicago, Illinois, Burch's Building, Chicago Exhibition of the Fine Arts, First Exhibition of Statuary, Paintings, Etc., May 1859, p. 4, no. 17.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Retrospective Exhibition of American Paintings, 1895, p. 39, no. 123.
(Possibly) New York, Bryant Park, Washington Bicentennial Exhibition, June 1932.
New York, Century Association, Exhibition of Work by Emanuel Leutze, February 7-March 3, 1946, no. 22.
New York, The Union League Club, 1951-67, on extended loan.
Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Paintings and Historical Prints from the Middendorf Collection, July 9-November 26, 1967, pp. 38-39, no. 26, illustrated.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, History PaintingsVarious Aspects, February 15-May 17, 1968.
Washington, D.C., The White House, 1972-73, on loan.
Spokane, Washington, The World’s Fair, Our Land, Our Sky, Our Water, May 4-November 3, 1974, pp. 9, 55, no. 16 (as Emanuel Leutze/Eastman Johnson).
Washington, D.C., The U.S. State Department, circa mid-1970s, on loan.
Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Art Museum, circa mid-1970s, on loan.
Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Emanuel Leutze, 1816-1868: Freedom Is the Only King, January 16-March 14, 1976, pp. 38-39, 83-84, no. 57, fig. 23, illustrated (as Emanuel Leutze With Eastman Johnson).
Düsseldorf, Germany, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, The Hudson and the Rhine: Die amerikanische Malerkolonie in Düsseldorf im 19. Jahrhundert, April 4-May 16, 1976, pp. 69-70, no. 105, cover illustration (as Washington Überquert Den Delaware).
Washington, D.C., The White House, 1979-2014, on extended loan.
Washington, D.C., National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, G. Washington, A Figure Upon the Stage: An Exhibition in Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of His Birth, February 22, 1982-January 7, 1983, pp. 50-51, fig. 25, endsheet illustration (as Eastman Johnson, after Emanuel Leutze).
New York, IBM Gallery of Science and Art; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Art; Miami, Florida, Center for the Fine Arts; Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum, Picturing History: American Painting, 1776-1930, September 28, 1993-November 13, 1994, pp. 6, 183, no. 166, pl. 124, cover illustration (as Eastman Johnson & Emanuel Leutze).
Winona, Minnesota, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, 2015-22, on extended loan.
Further details
We would like to thank Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, and Dr. Patricia Hills and Abigael MacGibeny of the Eastman Johnson Catalogue Raisonné, for their assistance in researching this lot.

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Late on Christmas night 1776, General George Washington famously rallied his troops across the half-frozen Delaware River to Trenton, New Jersey, where a camp of Hessian mercenaries hired by England unsuspectingly rested after holiday celebrations. The success of the ensuing surprise attack proved critical in raising the morale of the American army after several defeats, importantly changing the course of the Revolutionary War and moreover the history of the nation. This key 18th century moment in the fight for American freedom was elevated to the status of eternal archetype in the 19th century by the artist Emanuel Leutze.

His powerful image of Washington—bravely standing tall at the bow of his rowboat, leading his army while looking off toward the battle ahead with grim determination—has been published countless times in textbooks and articles, seen on U.S. postal stamps and even engraved on the New Jersey state quarter. Since its earliest debut, Leutze’s vision has inspired such superlatives as “incomparably the best painting yet executed for an American subject” (Literary World) and “the grandest, most majestic and most effective painting ever exhibited in America.” (New York Evening Mirror) Ubiquitous in popular culture ever since, Washington Crossing the Delaware firmly remains among the most iconic images of the 20th and 21st centuries—instantly recognizable, endlessly reinterpreted and a timeless symbol of an American hero.

Leutze with the help of his studio assistants, including the up-and-coming young artist Eastman Johnson, only produced three known complete paintings of this scene: the first, previously in the collection of the Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany, and tragically destroyed in a World War II air raid; the second, forming the centerpiece in the American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the present work. Almost identical in composition to the Metropolitan’s version, and widely exhibited in its own right, including for several decades in The White House, the present version was painted by Leutze with Johnson’s assistance and reproduced as the engraving by which Washington Crossing the Delaware first garnered international fame. When installed on long term loan in 1979, White House Curator Clement Conger remarked that the present work was among “the most important American paintings ever to hang in the White House.” (Washington Post, May 19, 1979)

170 years later, the image remains just as relevant. In addition to countless pop culture references and parodies, the imagery appears again and again in the work of 20th century artists following in Leutze’s footsteps. For example, Grant Wood caricatures his gray-haired Daughters of Revolution with a version of the engraving behind them (1932, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio), and Roy Lichtenstein and Larry Rivers have adapted Leutze’s composition via their own personal styles. The Metropolitan Museum has juxtaposed their Leutze with Jacob Lawrence’s 1954 interpretation of the scene as well as Kara Walker’s 2017 reaction The Crossing (Private Collection), and Robert Colescott riffs on the image to underscore racist stereotypes in traditional accountings of American history in his 1975 George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware River: Page from an American History Textbook (Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles, California).

With such ongoing engagement surrounding the image in academic, artistic and public discourse, Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware has not only forever changed how America remembers one of its first heroes—cementing the cult of Washington into the culture of the nation—but also has over the past 170 years become an icon of American history in its own right. As The Knickerbocker urged its readers in 1851, “Go and see Leutze's great painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware…It is itself the orator of the scene and the occasion. The crowds who throng to see it by day and by night attest its character. It is a work that will be as immortal as its subject.” (The Knickerbocker, vol. XXXVIII, December 1851, p. 660)

Envisioning the Battle of Trenton

Leutze’s painting finds its historical basis in one of the key strategic turning points in the American Revolutionary War. As the year 1776 drew to a close, the Americans were firmly behind in their fight for independence from the British following defeats at Fort Washington and Fort Lee and the retreat of Washington’s Continental Army to Pennsylvania on the west bank of the Delaware River. While British Commander William Howe planned to wait until the River fully froze before pursuing further engagements, Washington had other plans and, on the night of December 25, 1776, led an assault group across the treacherous icy waters. As Colonel Henry Knox, who later became Washington’s Secretary of War, recounted, “a party of the army consisting of about 2,500 or 3,000 passed the river on Christmas night, with almost infinite difficulty, with eighteen field pieces. The floating ice in the river made the labor almost incredible. However, perseverance accomplished. About two o’clock the troops were all on the Jersey side; we then were about nine miles from the object. The night was cold and stormy; it hailed with great violence; the troops marched with the most profound silence and good order.” (as quoted in J.K. Howat, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, March 1968, p. 297)

With the Americans sneaking across under the cover of night, Hessian Colonel Johann Rall’s camp of 1,400 men, whom Howe had left as the British defense at Trenton, were completely surprised in their groggy, post-holiday stupor. The battle lasted only forty-five minutes before Washington’s men had captured 900 prisoners and a significant amount of weapons and ammunition. While the war would continue for almost six more years, this key victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776 proved that Washington truly possessed the strategic and courageous leadership needed for his Continental Army to defend the American claim of independence that had been boldly declared months prior on July 4, 1776.

While the Battle of Trenton inspired some of the most important painters of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the now pervasive archetype of Washington on a boat in the midst of his heroic river crossing unquestionably finds its origins in Emanuel Leutze’s paintings of Washington Crossing the Delaware. As in the large-scale Metropolitan Museum picture, the present work captures Washington onboard one of the boats, nestled amongst his hard-working soldiers navigating through the treacherous waters. At once a man of the people and a leader to look up to, the General stands tall in his tricorn hat, holding his billowing cape as he faces boldly ahead toward forthcoming danger. With gleaming sword sheathed at his hip and a brass telescope in hand, he is a leader of both vision and action as he carries with him the fate of the nascent country. The proudly lifted American flag behind him both visually and metaphorically underscores his importance in this particular scene, and moreover as a forefather of the nation.

Emanuel Leutze’s Studio Process

While a supremely American subject, Washington Crossing the Delaware was actually painted by Leutze in his studio in Düsseldorf, Germany. German-born, Leutze moved with his family to Philadelphia in 1825 and always considered himself an American artist. In 1840 he traveled back abroad to study as a history painter at the Düsseldorf Academy, which was considered the most famous art school in Europe. Leutze, however, found the Academy too restrictive and soon established his own independent studio, which became a hub for other American painters traveling to Germany for experience abroad. His studio mates and students included several artists who would go on to become icons of American art in their own right, including Eastman Johnson and Worthington Whittredge, and in later years Albert Bierstadt, Sanford Gifford and William Stanley Haseltine.

Leutze began working on Washington Crossing the Delaware in 1849, and his interest was likely sparked by the political upheavals in 1848 across Europe, including in Germany. Barbara Groseclose explains, “Leutze’s subject matter is thus both a historical symbol and a brilliant metaphor for psychological encouragement. The American Revolution had already served as prototype and symbol for the Forty-eighters…Its apt relation to the events of 1848-49 for Leutze’s German audience is easily discerned: the demoralized, nearly paralyzed men of 1848, caught in the tight web of the reaction, could yet rally and overcome their defeat, even as Washington had led the Americans from despair to victory.” (Emanuel Leutze, 1816-1868: Freedom Is the Only King, pp. 36-37)

By November 1850, Leutze had his first version of the painting ready to bring back to America when tragedy struck. A fire broke out in the stable below Leutze’s studio, and while the painting was cut from its frame and rolled up to save it from the encroaching flames, it was very badly damaged. Leutze made an insurance claim and was paid immediately. It turned out, however, that this first version of Washington Crossing the Delaware was not unsalvageable. The insurance company paid Leutze to repair the piece and by the end of the year it was ready for exhibition. In 1863, the work was sold to the Kunsthalle in Bremen, Germany, where unfortunately disaster would strike again and an air raid during World War II would completely destroy Leutze’s first version of his iconic image.

Following the damage of his first version, Leutze ordered a new canvas to begin again within days. He worked quickly on his second full-scale canvas (now in the Metropolitan Museum), but he did make changes to the composition; for example, adding red to Washington’s previously golden cloak as well as moving the positions of some of the oars and the ice floes in front of the boat to make the scene appear even more treacherous. He based the head of Washington on a mask after Jean Antoine Houdon’s bust of the President. His studio mate Worthington Whittredge posed for the body of Washington, and Eastman Johnson’s father based in Washington, D.C. was convinced to send a copy of an authentic military uniform for Washington’s costume.

Whittredge’s memoirs reveal that Leutze recruited help from his students in completing the large-scale work: “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 artist of the Düsseldorf 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 invisible star, the last to fade in the morning light.” (as quoted in J.K. Howat, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” p. 292)

By April 1851, the Metropolitan version of Washington Crossing the Delaware was completed enough that Paris art firm Goupil, Vibert & Co. had already purchased the painting for $6000 with the plan to exhibit and reproduce the work as an engraving for the subscribers to their International Art-Union membership program. As part of this plan, Goupil commissioned Leutze to paint the present work—a version on a reduced scale from the monumental picture, which engraver Paul Girardet could use as the basis of his plate for the engraving of the composition.

Almost identical to the large-scale Met painting, the present work was finished in parallel with the Metropolitan picture, as evidenced by both period correspondence as well as similar artist changes to the flag and Washington’s hat visible under infrared photography in both versions. Eastman Johnson wrote to a friend on March 1851, “Since the first of January I have been with Leutze. Our studio is a large hall where six of us paint with convenience, three on large pictures. The chief is Leutze’s of ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware,’ 20 feet by 16, figures size of life. It is already perhaps two-thirds finished and I am making a copy on a reduced scale from which an engraving is to be made. It is sold to the International A[rt] Union of New York and will be exhibited through the States in the fall.” (as quoted in P. Hills, “The Genre Painting of Eastman Johnson: The Sources and Development of His Style and Themes,” Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1973, p. 37)

Based on Johnson’s correspondence—just as Whittredge and Achenbach assisted Leutze in completing the sky on the large version—the present work was also completed by Leutze with the assistance of one of his students, in this case Eastman Johnson. The painting is recorded in the Goupil stock books on July 26, 1851, and following its analysis for printmaking, would be exhibited as Leutze’s smaller version of his famous Washington Crossing the Delaware at New York’s Crystal Palace in 1853-54 and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1854. The work was then sold by Goupil in New York in November 1857, likely to Alexander White of Chicago, who would loan the present work to an exhibition at his city’s Burch Building in 1859.

Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware is the image of the General and future President that has endured the test of time and come to be accepted as truth for generations of Americans. As the basis of the engraving of this iconic composition, the present work has played an important role in the mass recognition and appreciation of this iconic vision, which continues to develop and evolve through endless reproduction and reinterpretation in popular culture. While a 19th century depiction of a 1776 event, Washington Crossing the Delaware transcends its history as an absolutely timeless evocation of heroism in the American imagination.

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