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Home / Great Artists / L / Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze / Biography
Biography Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze Biography


1816-1868

German (Active in America) Romantic Painter

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (May 24, 1816 – July 18, 1868) was a German-born American painter. Leutze was born in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Württemberg, Germany, was brought to America as a child, and then returned to Germany as an adult. He is perhaps best-known for his painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. It is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.
At the age of twenty-five he had earned enough to take himself to Düsseldorf for a course of art study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Almost immediately he began painting historical subjects; his first work, Columbus before the Council of Salamanca was purchased by the Düsseldorf Art Union. A strong supporter of Europe's Revolutions of 1848, Leutze decided to paint an image that would encourage Europe's liberal reformers with the example of the American Revolution. Using American tourists and art students as models and assistants, Leutze finished Washington Crossing the Delaware in 1850.
Westward the Course of Empire Takes its WayIn 1859, Leutze painted a portrait of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney which hangs in the Harvard Law School. In a 1992 opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia described the portrait of Taney, made two years after Taney's infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford, as showing Taney "in black, sitting in a shadowed red armchair, left hand resting upon a pad of paper in his lap, right hand hanging limply, almost lifelessly, beside the inner arm of the chair. He sits facing the viewer and staring straight out. There seems to be on his face, and in his deep-set eyes, an expression of profound sadness and disillusionment."
In 1860 Leutze was commissioned by the U.S. Congress to decorate a stairway in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, for which he painted a large composition, Westward the Course of Empire takes its Way.
Late in life, he became a member of the National Academy of Design.
He died in Washington, D.C. in his 53rd year.