Washington Crossing the Delaware Painting


Leutze was a famous History painter of his time, depicting American themes and figures. His paintings are characterized by the American Romanticism art style, and he was also known to paint portraits.

artwork in context

There is more than one version of this painting, some sources refer to two versions, which are in existence today, and other sources refer to three, which include the original version that was destroyed.

historical overview

Washington strategized and planned to cross the Delaware River, reportedly nearby McConkey’s Ferry Inn. The attack was planned from different sides of Trenton.

different versions

The first version was damaged by a fire that broke out in Leutze’s studio in November 1850. It is believed that Leutze started on a new version in 1850 after the fire.

subject matter

We see the central and dignified figure of George Washington standing at the boat’s bow. He is looking to the left of the composition, his gaze fixed on his target ahead of him.


Behind Washington are two figures holding a large flag composed of red and white stripes and white stars. This is a reference to the American flag, also referred to as “Stars and Stripes”, which was only designed and used in 1777.


The landscape itself is an icy stretch of the Delaware River, which is covered in large pieces of ice, revealing parts of the water between it.


The overall color scheme is quite dark, with hues like deep greens, reds, blues, browns, and blacks. The lightness of the sky and the ice on the water’s surface create a color contrast.


Notice Leutze’s use of different brushstrokes to convey texture. Smoother brushstrokes for the men’s clothing, the wooden oars, the sky, as well as the water are used, which contrast with thicker strokes.


There is an interplay of various types of lines, which convey a sense of motion in terms of the direction the men are moving, but also emphasis in terms of strength and bravery.

shape and form

The compositional form of the Washington Crossing the Delaware painting is reportedly in a triangular layout. It starts on the horizontal base from the boat moving upwards.


Leutze utilized atmospheric perspective to create the illusion of a three-dimensional space, which is conveyed by creating smaller, less recognizable figures in the background.