Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't Mess With George

On December 26th 1776 George Washington crossed the Delaware River with his ragged army.  His surprise attack on the British at Trenton was a successful step in the long painful battle for independence.  The crossing was memorialized by Emanuel Leutz in his 1881 painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware".

Now comes a reinterpretation and a new painting offering an historically accurate version of the event.  You can read about it and see a picture of the new work at this link.  The painting is boring.  One is not drawn into the drama.  No heart palpitations. 

Leutz' painting has served a patriotic purpose for 230 years.  The viewer immediately recognizes danger, courage, resourcefulness and determination.  Does it matter if the picture is accurate? 

As an example of the success of Leutz' classic, look at Dan Deroux's painting "Washington Crossing the Khyber Pass".  Deroux is an acclaimed contemporary artist.  He is frequently inspired by historical events and the art of others.  Deroux understands the power of the ice flow and wind whipping at the flag.  He gets it that Washington is leading the way down an untrodden path.  My advice, don't mess with George.

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