the Symbolism in Art
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Emanuuel Leutze was german born painter who was brought to the united states as a child. He began drawing in 1834. Soon after this he started working as a travelling portrait painter, earning up to $5 a picture. The few history paintings he made at this time attracted considerable praise, and he was encouraged to continue his studies in Europe. In 1841 he returned to Germany to study at the Academy in Dusseldorf. He remained in Germany for almost 20 years and focused on canvas painting, in which he specialized in throughout his career.
Dusseldorf taught the precision, and such highly executed style as seen throughout his career. He eventually achieved a gold medal at the Brussels art exhibition. Leutze’s best know piece of work is Washington Crossing the Delaware. This work became a symbol of American patriotism, despite its slight exaggerations and inaccuracies. Leutze’s later life consisted of getting commissioned by the US congress to decorate the stairway of the capitol building. His decoration was called Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way. In which westward expansion along with the battles fought during the conquest of westward land are illustrated. A great painting to lay in a building that has controlled such historical movements in the U.S’ history. Leutze had many impressive works that hold lots of historical value, and a lot of those will be elaborated on throughout this paper along with more stories and facts about his life.
Washington Crossing the Delaware
In Dusseldorf, Leutze established his own studio and became a local figure in its art community. Soon he was considered one of the most popular American artists living abroad. In 1848 he began painting his most famous work, Washington Crossing the Delaware. Leutze’s depiction of Washington’s attack on the Hessians at Trenton on December 25, 1776, was a great success in America and in Germany. Leutze began his first version of this subject in 1849. It was damaged in his studio by fire in 1850 and, although restored was again destroyed in a bombing raid in 1942. In 1850, Leutze’s famous artwork went to auction in 1850 and was purchased for $10,000. Despite the fame of the painting it has plenty of inaccuracies. The event occurred during the night but the painting was made at dawn. Along with that the flag that is pictured wasn’t even used by the U.S till later.
Washington’s stance, obviously intended to depict him in a heroic fashion, would have been very hard to maintain in the stormy conditions of the crossing. Considering that he is standing in a rowboat, this also could’ve rocked the boat over which could’ve sent his unit into the frigid Delaware. However, historians have argued that everyone would have been standing up to avoid the icy water in the bottom of the boat, while the actual boats used were much larger having a flat bottom, higher sides, and broader beams. But then again, the boats were slightly dimensioned wrong, this lack of size just increases the heroism of the painting and adds plenty of drama.
The people in the boat represent the people of the American colonies, including a man in a Scottish bonnet and a man of African descent facing backward, western riflemen at the bow and stern, two farmers in broad-brimmed hats near the back (one with bandaged head). All of these characters add to the story of the war battle. All of these soldiers of different descent fighting for the better and future of America. There is also a man at the back of the boat wearing what appears to be Native American garb to represent the idea that all people in the new United States of America were represented as present in the boat along with Washington on his way to victory and success. Washington’s army killed 22 Hessian soldiers, wounded 98 more, and captured more than 1,000. The Colonial Army had less than ten combined dead and wounded soldiers. After many military setbacks in the North, Washington’s bold move on Christmas night 1776 helped provide a sense of hope for the Colonial cause. This painting is 12×21 feet and perhaps its massive size is appropriate such a huge historical moment in U.S history.
Worthington Whittredge in His Tenth Street Studio
In his portrayal of his friend, the landscape painter Worthington Whittredge, Emanuel Leutze offers clues about the working environment of a mid-nineteenth century painter. Shown in profile at his elaborately draped easel, Whittredge sits erect as he labors on his canvas. He holds his palette in his left hand. Scattered on the floor and propped on shelves are small paintings, presumably the result of nature sketches. Hudson River School painters in the 1860s still composed their landscapes indoors in their studios as Whittredge does in this portrait. A soft golden light pours down from a high window, drawing attention to the painter’s baldhead, his hand, and the edge of the gilded frame.
The studio walls are well paneled in a dark wooden design, indicative of the tastefulness of the famous Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City. Erected in 1857 as the first structure dedicated to artists, the building was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and housed twenty-three studios. Both Whittredge and Leutze rented studios in the Tenth Street Studio Building. They had met abroad at the Düsseldorf Academy, a popular institution for American artists. Leutze was an instructor at the school, and he and Whittredge developed a lasting friendship. Whittredge posed for the figure of George Washington in Leutze’s 1851 masterpiece, Washington Crossing the Delaware.
Columbus before the Queen
Columbus before the Queen was the third of at least six paintings of the Christopher Columbus theme undertaken by Emanuel Leutze. Portrayed as a hero, the Italian explorer commands the center of the composition as he boldly addresses the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, seen at the left. With their backing, Columbus crossed the Atlantic four times between 1492 and 1503. His first voyage marked the beginning of Spanish colonization of the Americas, which brought a new language, a new monotheistic religion, and an obsession with racial purity to the region.
General Ambrose Burnside at Antietam
Washington Rallying the Troops a Antietam
It stops library tours in their tracks— on a canvas 24 feet wide and 15 feet high, George Washington lifts his sword to the sky and rides across a battlefield of revolutionary soldiers and British forces, fighting hard. Smoke, drums, and wounds . . . more than our guests bargain for in a hushed reading room.
It took the Revolutionary War a long time to get a home in John Galen Howard’s stately East Reading Room. “Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth,” painted by Emanuel Leutze in 1854, had spent most of its days at Cal in storage under the pool of Hearst Gymnasium. With the help of the University Art Museum, we were proud to give it a place of honor in 1993.
Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British
Exhibition Label, 1997 Emanuel Leutze is most often identified with his Washington Crossing the Delaware (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), perhaps the most famous depiction of the American Revolution. Leutze created that historical painting in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1851, then returned to his adopted country to exhibit it. During his stay the artist decided to capitalize on the success of the painting by initiating a series based on events of the war. The second was Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British.
Like George Washington, Mrs. Schuyler was a legendary hero whose accomplishments had become folklore by mid-century. Catherine Schuyler was the wife of General Philip Schuyler, who advocated a scorched-earth policy toward the British. According to family tradition (later proved false), when British troops advanced on the Schuyler’s summer estate in Saratoga, New York, she decided to torch her fields rather than allow the enemy to seize the wheat. Leutze conceived the narrative as a theatrical scene, with Mrs. Schuyler center state. By presenting her in a red, white, and blue gown Leutze not only revealed his skill as a colorist but also underscored Mrs. Schuyler’s patriotic deed. The frame is an excellent example of the fluted cove design that became popular in the 1860s.
One of the enduring myths of America is that it has no history but exists in the liberating freedom of the present moment. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novels, fables, and ‘tales’ were a cautionary lesson to Americans who ignored the past. (Hawthorne knew the more optimistic writers represented in this room but was friends with none of them.) His writings secularized the harsh Puritan worldview of his Salem birthplace to remind Americans that actions had consequences, both for individuals and communities. His novels turn on the clash of the individual will-from the lovers in The Scarlet Letter (1850) to the naive philanthropist of The Blithedale Romance (1852)-against the implacability of society and nature. Hawthorne’s sympathies are often with his rebels, but his philosophy requires their defeat. It was perhaps the irreconcilability of these viewpoints that led to his artistic decline in the 1850s.
Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way
Leutze combined pioneer men and women, mountain guides, wagons, and mules to suggest a divinely ordained pilgrimage to the Promised Land of the western frontier. Within the left half of the picture is a depiction of the entrance to the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate, which is being pointed to by the pilgrim seated atop the rock in the foreground. Within the right hemisphere of the painting is a depiction of a valley, representing the Valley of Darkness and symbolic of the troubles faced by explorers. The imagery is familiar imperial iconography and is regarded as a symbol of American exceptionalism and the realization of Manifest Destiny, ultimately leading to the evolution of the American Empire. The darkness turning into light represents the greatness that was believed to lie in the future West.
The imagery of the pilgrim gesturing on a high rock is very similar to the 5 cent postage stamp, Fremont in the Rocky Mountains that was part of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Issue, and reprinted a century later.
A Currier and Ives print from 1868 uses the same title and theme for a very different print, showing a railroad crossing a new settlement as the train goes west.
A photographic print and a stereograph by Alexander Gardner, both of an 1867 end-of-track frontier construction train, were titled ‘Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way’.
He continued to remain artistically active for the rest of his life and was a strong advocate of the National Academy of Design, serving on the Council for a term in 1865. Leutze died in 1868 from heatstroke, at the age of 52.