Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

WC Art Encyclopedia Leutze

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (May 24, 1816- Jul 18, 1868) was a German American painter best known for his painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. Though born in Germany, Leutze grew up in America. His parents settled first in Fredericksburg, VA before moving to Philadelphia, PA.

Leutze first showed an interest into arts when he was bored while attending to his father’s sickbed. He began to sell portraits for $5 apiece and that was how he supported himself after his father’s death in 1831. He became soon skilled, also through art instructions by a local portrait painter in Philadelphia. In 1840 one of his paintings attracted so much attention that subsequent orders paid him his way to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

His studies in Germany and Italy turned the former portrait artist into a historian painter. His work met interest and earned him prizes. He settled in Düsseldorf, married and worked there for 14 years. During his this time he was an active networker and leader of artists. He was also a supporter of the 1848 revolutions in Europe, what led to the creation of his most renown painting Washington Crossing the Delaware in 1850.

In 1859 Leutze returned to the United States and began to divide his time between New York and Washington, DC. He again executed portraits, which aren’t known for their artistic merit but for their patriotic emotionalism. In 1860 the U.S. Congress commissioned him to decorate the stairway in the Capitol Building. Thus, the large composition Westwards the Course of the Empire Takes Its Way came into being.

Leutze died in Washington, DC. age 52.

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