In his 1851 portrait, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” among the best-known of American paintings, the artist, Emanuel Leutze, did not shy away from imbuing the scene with a dose of glory, inspiration and heroism.
He also did not let the facts get in the way of his masterpiece — the original hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The only thing wrong with this historical image is the history part, said Mort Künstler, as he recently put the finishing touches on his own version of Washington’s crossing. As it rested on an easel in Mr. Künstler’s studio on Long Island, the painting looked nothing like the Leutze version.
“I’m not knocking the original: it’s got great impact and Leutze did a heck of a job,” Mr. Künstler said. “I give Leutze higher marks for a good painting than for historical accuracy, but why can’t you have both?”
Mr. Künstler, who has gained some renown for painstakingly researched paintings that strive for accuracy, invested two months of research for the new painting, which is set to be unveiled at the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan on Monday, the date in 1776 that Washington led his troops into battle in Trenton after crossing the Delaware.
Read the whole of Corey Kilgannon’s story in the New York Times.
Photo of Kunstler’s painting by Michael Nagle, courtesy of the New York Times.