Iconic painting of American history now hangs at Winona museum


One of the most iconic images in American history is joining the Minnesota Marine Art Museum's permanent collection.

"I can't even describe the excitement to bring something that substantial to our audience here in Winona," MMAM Executive Director Andrew Maus told MPR News. "We've unveiled a lot of really great things, but this takes the cake."

It's the painting that has been republished in history books as a symbol of the American Revolution – George Washington leading Continental army soldiers across the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776.

German artist Emanuel Leutze painted several versions of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" – the first was destroyed in a fire, so he simultaneously painted two new versions, which were both completed in 1851, the MMAM said on Facebook.

One is large – 21 feet wide – and hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where it is one of the most visited works, the Winona Daily News reports.

The smaller version has spent the last several decades on the wall in the West Wing of the White House, but now finds its permanent home in the American Gallery at the MMAM in Winona.

MMAM founders Mary Burrichter and her husband Bob Kierlin purchased the painting from a private collector, who for the past 35 years had loaned it to the White House, the Star Tribune reports. The museum declined to say what the painting cost.

Leutze, a German artist, painted "Washington Crossing the Delaware" to inspire German reformers, the National Endowment for the Humanities notes. Leutze's painting isn't historically accurate, but what has become a symbolic image of the American Revolution embodies the spirit of that cold Christmas night, which was his intention.

He painted the smaller version as a composition study before starting on the giant masterpiece – a common practice for artists. Collection adviser John Driscoll told the Winona Daily News the smaller painting always ends up looking neater, with more intricate brush strokes.

The painting is expected to draw many visitors to the museum, the Winona Daily News notes.

Other paintings unveiled at the weekend event include: “The Thrilling Moment” by John George Brown, “The Parlor on Brooklyn Heights” by Edward Lamson Henry, “On the Beach” by Julius LeBlanc Stewart, “Water Lilies” by Edward Henry Potthast, and “Summer at the Shore” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the newspaper says.

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