Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Emanuel Leutze

I mentioned Emanuel Leutze the other night in passing while writing about Duveneck. Tonight I thought I would write briefly about Leutze (1816-1868).

Leutze was born in Germany but raised in America, first in Philadelphia and then Fredricksburg Virginia. Although after the death of his father he supported himself as a young man doing portraits, he was later trained by John Rubens Smith. In 1840 Leutze returned to Germany where he married and lived for 14 years. He welcomed visiting American art students and taught many of them.

His best known, perhaps only well known painting, is Washington Crossing the Delaware. There are several copies of this painting, the best known is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The first and original painting remained in Germany and was destroyed by allied bombing at a museum in Bremen. Painted in 1850 Leutze modeled the figures after visiting Americans. Each of the figures represents an American "type", the westerner with his long rifle seated near the stern and the Scotsman with his tam in the bow. Future president James Monroe is holding the flag behind Washington. American luminist painter Worthington Whittredge posed as both Washington and the sternman. Below is a painting by Whittredge.

Leutzes painting has been censored or altered a number of times in textbooks because his watch fob hangs perilously close to his genitals. There has been much criticism of the painting as historically inaccurate, which it is, but Leutze's intention was to inspire European revolutionary movements with the example of Americas revolution. His figures are posed heroically and the work has become an icon of our culture.

In 1859 Leutze returned to America and set up shop as a portrait painter. The next year he was commissioned by congress to paint as decoration for the National Capitol building entitled Westward Ho, The Course Of Empire Takes Its Way. A celebration of manifest destiny, the painting decorates a stairwell to this day.

Leutze was elected a member of the National Academy of Design and was working on a painting commemorating the freeing of the slaves upon his death at the age of 53.

Over at Mathew Innis blog, underpaintings there is posted a series of videos of Scott Burdicks on representation in art versus modernism. I watched part of it and intend to watch the rest. Check that out here.


Announcing Snowcamp 2 which will be held February 5th, 6th and 7th. The first workshop is filled and I will run a second. Go here to sign up. Class size is limited to ten only, this is a small intense workshop at a beautiful inn located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.


Philip Koch said...

Worthington Whittredge posed as Washingotn!
Good lord, art historical trivia doesn't get better than this!

Bob Carter said...

I hadn't heard about the watch fob censoring. Only in America! That painting is, indeed, much maligned, largely because it is so over the top. Kenyon Cox had some scathing comments about it that are very amusing.

Barbara said...

Do you suppose the watch fob was a visual pun? said...

This is what can happen when conceptualism meets literalism; when the conceptualist meet the realist. Poor Leutze.

I made it over to Innis's blog, alerted by willek. I just couldn't help myself putting in my penny thought there.

Are we going to see an exhibit of the work you all did in P'town?

Steve Andrews said...

After seeing the painting in every American history textbook I ever had, I was stunned to see it in person at the Met. It is more than 10 feet high and 20 feet long. I always liked the painting and thought it was interesting, but when I saw it in person I was amazed.

Thanks for this always interesting blog.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Art trivia, served steaming hot!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am very fond of Kenyon Cox though.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Barbara: No I doubt that, but he was the father of his country so it has become one.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will have to go and read your comment.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. It is often interesting to be surprised by the actual painting you have seen reproduced, particularly if that painting is really large or really small.