Friday, December 30, 2011

Should We Try to Repaint History?

Open any American history textbook and you’ll find it there—Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. George Washington’s steely profile cutting through the wind as he stands in the rowboat, the multicultural crew (including Scotsmen, Native Americans, and even an African-American) pushing away the jagged ice, and the Stars and Stripes flapping proudly in the wind—all very inspirational, and all wholly inaccurate. Now, historical painter Mort Künstler offers his own take on the events of December 25, 1776 with his Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry (shown above). Künstler corrects all of Leutze’s wrongs, but will his historically accurate rendition replace Leutze’s image in the history books and, more importantly, the hearts of Americans young and old? Can we repaint history? Should we? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Should We Try to Repaint History?"

[Image: Mort Künstler, Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry. 2011. Copyright Künstler Enterprises Inc. 2011.]

[Many thanks to Mort Künstler for providing the image above.]


Jack Duggan said...

Interesting question. I think as an icon the Leutze image is a part of our cultural history. It tells us a lot about 1851. The Kunstler image is still very heroic, Washington standing silent and brave, the light and so on. That it's a barge instead of a rowboat and has an homogenous crew I suspect makes it only 60% accurate or 70 or 80, but not wholly. So for me is it better? Not really. Learning history is learning what happened and learning how we thought about it, at the time, 80 years later and 225 years later. So in conclusion, I'm not sure. Thanks for the interesting and thought provoking post.

Jack Duggan said...

Second thought. No I don't think we should try to repaint history, but I think we should keep painting history. As Heisenberg told us in science, what we see is going to be determined by when and where we are. So which image should today's history books show? I like Leutze.

Jack Duggan said...

Bob Duggan. Is that your real name?

It wasn't until after I commented and began looking around that I saw your last name. Sounds common but I don't run across it that often. A Duggan with culture. Wow! Ain't that something.

Happy New Year, cousin,
Jack Duggan

Bob said...

Hi, Jack,

Yes, Duggan is my real name. Perhaps we're related. But aren't all Irish related in some way?

Sounds like there's two Duggans with culture.

Happy New Year, cuz,

Bob Duggan

Kerf said...

Great painting, love it.

faseeh ilyas said...

its amazing.............