Lenses on the Delaware

By: Helen Xiu, Mara Monroy, Helen Xiu, Sana Suhail

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Artist Bio By: Anna and Mara

This painting is Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze.


Emanuel Leutze was a German-American, settled in Virginia and then Philadelphia.

While he originally didn't start out as an artist, his first attempt to draw was at his father's sick bed. After his father's death, Leutze began painting portraits for $5 a piece to support himself. His first actual art lesson was from John Reuben Smith, a painter from Philadelphia. Through this mentoring, he soon became a skilled artist, but was met with little encouragement.

In Europe however his paintings gained a lot of attention. He was soon accepted into Dusseldorf. After he finished his studies, he traveled to Venice and Rome where he studied from Titian and Michelangelo.

He was a strong supporter of the Revolutions of 1948, so he decided to make a painting to encourage European Liberalists with the American example. This painting, completed in 1850 was Washington Crossing the Delaware.


Emanuel Leutze painted in the Romanticism Era. This era put new emphasis on awe, terror, horror, and apprehension concerning values of sublimity and the beauty of nature. Folk art and ancient customs were considered of high regard, but Romanticism also valued spontaneity.

Art Critique By: Anna and Mara

The point of view of Washington Crossing the Delaware is one of an American patriot. One of the soldiers in the background is proudly holding the American flag despite the cold of winter. The painting also regards George Washington highly, as his pose is regal. Because it is from the Romantic era, there is a lot of exaggeration on the value of awe. This is shown through the left side of the painting being illuminated and expressing hope, while the right is dark and gloomy.

The purpose of the painting was to encourage general support for the revolution. Washington was crossing the Delaware river to sneak up on the Hessians during the middle of winter in order to succeed in the American Revolution. Emanuel Leutze also painted this to strengthen European ideas of liberty, modeled by the Americans.

The tone of Washington Crossing the Delaware is very dramatic. You can see the internal struggle of the soldiers as they're trying to push through the ice of the Delaware river, but you also see the confidence of General Washington as he stands in a dignified manner.

The composition of this work of art is mainly focused on the foreground with a trail of more boats leading into the horizon in the back. The colors involve lots of muted shades to the right, dark blues and greys. The right on the on the other hand is filled with bright yellows and reds, signifying a hope for what is yet to come.

Story Truth By: Helen and Sana

The date is December 25, 1776. Christmas Day. The sun sets with little fanfare as a blanket of darkness freckled with stars and constellations stretches night sky. General Washington, an imposing man of dignified stature and valiant heart, looks out across the latest obstacle for American Independence.


The Delaware River spans a length equal to the entire British army standing shoulder to shoulder. Its treacherous waters are raging with the wrath of Satan and enormous chunks of ice bob menacingly on its surface, merely dark shapes in the evening gloom. The water is rising even then , swelling with the force of the heavy rain.


The ship sways precariously on the waves but General Washington stands strong, his balance remaining undisturbed as the boat heaves and lurches in time with the abyss beneath them. The rowers struggle against the white current and their grunts of exertion pepper the air. They forge onward, braving the test God has put before them. For liberty. For freedom.

Happening Truth By: Helen and Sana

During the winter of 1776, George Washington planned a surprise attack on the HEssians stationed in Trenton, New Jersey. On December 25th, Washington, with his commanders Sullivan, Green, Glover, and Knox and his army of two thousand four hundred men, prepared to cross the Delaware River and launch their surprise attack. They left camp as it was drizzling and crossed as soon as it was dark enough for them to not be visible to enemy troops. They crossed the river using Durham boats, ferry boats, and other crafts.


Over time, the weather progressively got worse. The temperatures decreased drastically, as the rainfall turned into sleet and snow. Thick ice that was floating on the river made crossing extremely difficult. Despite the difficulties, they managed to cross the river successfully by 3.00 am, the morning of December 26th.


War Story By: Everyone


General Washington squints through the sleet beating down on his men. His vision is blurry and he can barely make out the shore in the far distance. There is a shout as one of the men in his crew falls overboard and his men try to to rescue the poor soldier.

“Leave him!” he shouts. “We must move forward!”

The man drowns in the frigid water, his screams muffled by the raging rapids sloshing over the sides of the boats. Horses winnie in fright behind him. Water steadily seeps into the vessel through the crack of the wood and the boat is slowly losing buoyancy, but still General Washington stares forward with determination.