Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

Emanuel Gottlieb LeutzeEmanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-1868) was born in southern Germany and then came to live in America at the age of 15. It was here in the States that Leutze began painting. As a boy Leutze was praised by friends, family members, and fellow painters for his quality, style, and skill. As Leutze grew, so did his painting abilities. It was then that Leutze’s drawing master, John R. Smith, urged him to enter his work in the Second Annual Exhibition sponsored by the Artists’ Fund Society in Philadelphia. To Leutze’s surprise, his canvas won critical acclaim as his painting, "Portrait of a Lady", was displayed in the rooms of the Society for two months.

It was this painting that opened wide the doors of opportunity for Leutze. He was asked to come to the nation capital to paint the heads of certain leading statesmen for engravings. This exciting prospect entitled a trip to Washington and sittings with prominent political figures. He was excited about the sittings with the leaders of the nation, but was even more interested in the public recognition that was sure to come.

And so Leutze set off for Washington at the age of 20, on January 17, 1837. As he entered Washington, he was greeted with warm welcomes and smiles. But the outcome of his trip was inevitable. Because of the sudden financial panic of 1837, and the busyness of the politicians, there was no time to conduct the sittings, which meant no painting of any heads. Plus, his young age was looked down upon where established reputations were prerequisites for securing success. So, Emanuel headed home feeling great disappointment. Despite this upsetting occasion for Leutze, he continued to paint in his hometown and fine-tuned his painting techniques adding to his growing artistic talent.

Washington Crossing the Deleware Little did he know that fourteen years later his work Washington Crossing the Delaware would be acclaimed enthusiastically on both sides of the Atlantic. He could not see that this painting would be the most popular painting in all of America and be reproduced more than any other historical scene. Leutze’s painting career was about to take off!

In the early 1840’s American artists would flock to the art studios of Rome and Florence to study art and new techniques as they tried making themselves known to the world. However, in the 1850’s artists from America began to travel to Germany. Their destination was the Dusseldorf Art Academy. The Dusseldorf Academy, under the directorship of William Morris Hunt, received painters from all over the world, as it became the "hot spot" for studying art. The Dusseldorf Art Academy had acquired an international fame with well known American painters, like Caleb Bingham, Eastman Johnson, Worthington Whittredge, Richard Caton Woodville, William S. Haseltine, James M. Hart, and William Morris Hunt in attendance. A new style of painting was presented at Dusseldorf, know as the "Dusseldorf style" that was known for its excellence in draftsmanship, its dramatic composition and an occasional dazzle of lighting. In addition, the heavy flow of Germans into America may have played a part in promoting a greater interest in and appreciation of German culture in America. Artists now ventured to the hills of Germany.

At the age of 24 in 1840, Emanuel Leutze became part of this flow of artists and traveled to Germany to study in Dusseldorf. Although Leutze only spent 20 years in the United States, he considered himself an American and lifted up the United States to the other members of the academy. Leutze thought of the United States as the universal fatherland. Many German idealists thought of this belief, which to some degree accounted for the large immigration of Germans into America. In Leutze’s paintings done at the academy, he glorified American history with great enthusiasm, uplifting the heroic spirit of the nation and the nations past.

One painting that showed his patriotic style was the colossal Washington Crossing the Delaware In 1848, Leutze painted this painting using fellow artists as models. After finishing this work of art, a studio fire broke out and caused severe smoke damage to the painting. Three years later, Leutze again sat down and painted a copy. After Congress in the United States viewed Leutze’s amazing artistic talent in the Washington Crossing The Delaware painting, they asked him to come back to the States to paint the large mural, Westward the Course of the Empire makes its way for the House of Representatives. Leutze took the offer and headed back to the United States in 1860, never to return to Germany. While back in the states, Leutze continued painting and became a very successful and well-known painter while continuing to uplift aspects of the United States and the nations past.

Boettger In the later years of Leutze’s life, he was able to create from his brush, some of today’s most famous paintings. One of these paintings, a portrait painting, can be found in almost every school literature book throughout the the U.S. The portrait is of Nathaniel Hawthorne and was completed in 1862. The portrait now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, in the Smithsonian Institution in Leutze’s favorite city, Washington D.C. This portrait has inspired many other painters to paint Nathaniel Hawthorne but none will match the quality of Leutze’s painting.

On a very warm Saturday, July 18th, the temperature rose to ninety-five at 2:00 P.M., and continued to rise throughout the day. This day was like many others in Washington where the city is known for its extreme heat. However, on this day, the excessive heat took its toll on Leutze and he collapsed in front of the Willard Hotel and within hours was dead. The newspaper wrote that the cause of death was "heat prostration and sunstroke." The Funeral service was held at his home at 5:30 P.M. on Monday, July 20, 1868. Leutze was buried at Glenwood Cemetery in the city he called home.

Leutze never held a formal teaching job (although offered one at the Dusseldorf Art Academy) however, his unique personality and ambition to paint had a great influence on the artistic community in Dusseldorf and also in the United States. This personality and style would be one that could never be matched.

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