The Art of the American Revolution

A Glimpse Into History

TEKS-Art, Grade 5

(b)(3) Historical and cultural relevance. The student demonstrates an understanding of art history and culture by analyzing artistic styles, historical periods, and a variety of cultures. The student develops global awareness and respect for the traditions and contributions of diverse cultures. The student is expected to:

(A) compare the purpose and effectiveness of artworks from various times and places, evaluating the artist's use of media and techniques, expression of emotions, or use of symbols;
(B) compare the purpose and effectiveness of artworks created by historic and contemporary men and women, making connections to various cultures;

TEKS-Social Studies, Grade 5

(b)(2) History. The student understands how conflict between the American colonies and Great Britain led to American independence. The student is expected to:

(A) identify and analyze the causes and effects of events prior to and during the American Revolution, including the French and Indian War and the Boston Tea Party;

(B) identify the Founding Fathers and Patriot heroes, including John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Nathan Hale, Thomas Jefferson, the Sons of Liberty, and George Washington, and their motivations and contributions during the revolutionary period; and

(C) summarize the results of the American Revolution, including the establishment of the United States and the development of the U.S. military.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Painted in Dusseldorf, Germany around 1851, the artist, Emanuel Leutze had lived in America as a boy, and after going back to Germany, had returned to America many times (years later he would emigrate here). While here, he visited the Smithsonian and examined Washington's uniform and sword, and carefully studied paintings and sculpture of the Great General which were done in Washington's lifetime. Yet, despite this intensive research into historical accuracies, Leutze then let his artistic license run wild. Perhaps that is why this painting is usually classified in the "Romantic" school of art.

The actual crossing was done in the dead of night, during a driving snowstorm, and was completed by three a. m. Leutze indulged in symbolism showing Washington leading his men out of a stormy darkness into a new dawn of freedom.

Besides Washington, only two of the figures in the boat have been identified. Look closely at the fellow holding the flag, and you'll see James Monroe. He was quartered in the house where Washington made the decision to cross, and served as a scout and trusted adviser to the General. The other recognizable figure, pulling on an oar at Washingtons knee, is Prince Whipple, a black patriot who has become a minor legend of the Revolution.

Washington at Monmouth

Leutze painted "Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth" about a year after he painted Washington Crossing the Delaware to which it is comparable in size - about 23 feet by 13 feet. The work was the result of a commission from David Leavitt of New York City. Upon its arrival in New York from Dusseldorf in 1854, it was put on public display for several months. Mrs. Mark Hopkins, widow of the western railroad mogul, purchased it in 1879.

The scene was occasioned by the failure on the part of Major General Charles Lee to follow up on an advantage that had been gained over the British force of Sir Henry Clinton as they withdrew from Philadelphia to New York. Lee was commander of a large advance force that made contact with the enemy's rear guard, but then, for reasons never clearly explained, ordered his troops to retreat when he had the advantage over his foe. The British counterattacked smartly, and what might have been a triumph for the Americans almost turned into a rout. It was at this juncture that Washington, who had been leading the main force of the Americans behind Lee, became aware of what was happening. "After marching five miles," said Washington's after-action report to Congress, "to my great surprise and mortification, I met the whole advanced corps retreating, and, as I was told, by General Lee's orders, without having made any opposition, except one fire. . . ." Soon afterward Washington encountered Lee near Monmouth Court House (now Freehold, New Jersey.)

The Declaration of Independence

Painted by John Trumball, the painting depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Historians criticize the painting because they feel that it should represent either the scene on June 28th when the Declaration was reported, or on July 4th when it was adopted, and they point out that Trumbull has included portraits of men who were not present on one or both of these occasions and excluded others who were.

That assumes, however, that Trumbull meant to memorialize one or both of these events. He did not. He neither called his work "The Submission of the Declaration", nor "Congress Adopting the Declaration" nor "The Signing of the Declaration." It is "Declaration of Independence" and was meant by Trumbull "to preserve the resemblance of the men who were the authors of this memorable act." Actually, it was on July 2nd that the Congress declared the Colonies to be independent, and on July 4th the form of that Declaration was determined.

Surrender of Cornwallis

This painting was composed and commenced by Trumbull in the studio of Benjamin West, London, 1786-87. In 1781, Lord Cornwallis marched with the principal part of his force into Virginia, where, for some time, his success was almost equally rapid and complete; but the admirable combined movement of General Washington and our French allies, from the north, and of the Count de Grasse, with the fleet and army of France, from the West Indies, turned the scale, and rendered it necessary for him to shut himself up in Yorktown, and attempt to defend himself there, until he could receive relief from New York. This hope, however, failed him, and on the 19th of October, he surrendered his forces to the combined armies of America and France.

Battle of Bunkers Hill

This work was painted in the studio of Benjamin West in London and finished in March 1786. This painting represents the moment when the Americans having expended their ammunition and the British troops have become completely successful and masters of the field. At this last moment of the action, General Warren was killed by a musket ball through the head. The principal group represents him expiring, a soldier on his knees supports him, and with one hand wards off the bayonet of a British grenadier, Colonel Small is represented seizing the musket of the grenadier, to prevent the fatal blow. Near this side of the painting is General Putnam, reluctantly ordering the retreat of these brave men; Behind Col. Small is Major Pitcairn, of the British marines, mortally wounded, and falling in the arms of his son. Under the heel of Colonel Small lies the dead body of Colonel Abercrombie. General Howe, who commanded the British troops, and General Clinton are seen behind the principal group.

Surrender of General Burgoyne

Trumbull planned this outdoor scene to contrast with Declaration of Independence, displayed beside it on the wall of the U.S. Capitol rotunda. Both paintings show large groups of people, but one is an indoor scene, while the other is an outdoor scene of similar perspective. The battle was a key victory for the Americans, prevented the division of New England, and secured French military assistance to the Americans.

British soldiers under General John Burgoyne surrender after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. The central figure, from the Continental Army, is General Horatio Gates, who refused to accept the traditional sword of surrender that Burgoyne offered. Instead, treating his former foe as a gentleman, General Gates invited General Burgoyne into his tent. The other Americans, shown to the right, are officers serving in the Continental Army.


Art Gallery Foyer. (n.d.). Retrieved from