OPTICC – 4th Six Weeks

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpg

“Washington Crossing the Delaware” is an 1851 painting by German-American historical painter Emanuel Leutze of American troops crossing the Delaware River, led by General George Washington. This artwork is important not only because of its fame, but because of the important period in American history it symbolizes. The American Revolution was an eighteen year long war that separated the thirteen North American colonies from the British monarchy, resulting in the creation of a new federal political system.

Overview: A man, George Washington, stands at the front of a small boat passing through tough waters. Eleven men work alongside him, rowing and protecting cargo. While Washington and those also standing appear brave and strong, those working below are tense.

Parts: Not only is one boat headed to land, but many more follow, carrying men as well as horses and weapons. Two men on Washington’s boat grasp an American flag, while those rowing seem to be struggling to push through ice. The wind and debris such as tree limbs in the water suggest that there are harsh weather conditions, as does the fact that many men are bundled in blankets or seated close together.

Title: The title, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” implies that these men, led by General Washington, are crossing the Delaware River to New Jersey, where enemy troops lie.

Interpretation: This piece is intended to represent the morning during the American Revolution where Washington led his troops across the Delaware River to launch a surprise attack on the Hessian troops in New Jersey. During this battle, Washington would capture Hessian prisoners, weapons, and supplies. This is was an important event in the war, as its success defined Washington’s role as an army general.

Context: In the time represented by this painting, the mid-to-late 1700s, there was a political revolution taking place in North America. Colonists of the thirteen European colonies were tired of being controlled by Europe’s system of monarchy and aristocracy. This led to a series of events and battles that would later be known as the “American Revolution,” in which a new government system was created, and the idea that “all men are created equal” was put into place.

Conclusion: This painting is a great depiction of American perseverance and courage during the times in which freedom was sought after. During the period of Romanticism in art, in which the past and nature were celebrated, Leutze’s tribute to the Revolution gives viewers a true sense of American patriotism.

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4 thoughts on “OPTICC – 4th Six Weeks

  1. Element One: Dana, your writing is very concise and specific to the piece. I feel like you are very clear in what you say, which helps your reader understand your OPTICC. I think overall, while you were relatively precise, there were some minor elements that were ignored. For example, I think an argument could be made that the dark, gray clouds that are parting for beams of light as Washington passes are emphasizing his perceived power and greatness. I also think that, while your historical context indicates that you have a solid understanding on the American revolution, more details and facts could be added for the sake of your readers, who might not be as familiar. However, both of these critiques are for incredibly small details that did not prevent the reader from understanding your well-written OPTICC.

    Element Two: You said you chose this piece because you constantly saw it in reference to American history, but wanted a deeper look at it. To me, this makes a lot of sense – your choice is meaningful, because, due to your thinking ahead, from now on, you will understand the context of this commonly found painting when you see it. The painting had a very clear message, which I believe you reflected in your OPTICC. Overall, I believe you helped contribute to your historical understanding, because of you using this painting to review a key part of American History.

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    1. Thank you for reading my OPTICC and giving me advice! I agree with your critique in that I should have gone a little more in-depth with my analyzation of symbols in the piece. I have found it being a common theme among all of my OPTICCs that I don’t go the extra mile when it comes to researching or just thinking about the smaller details in a painting or work. I really did enjoy analyzing this piece, and I do think it’ll help me understand it a little better in future classes and when looking at similar paintings.

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  2. In your OPTICC, you presented a lot of ideas and backed it up with evidence very well. When writing an OPTICC, it’s good to pretend the person reading it doesn’t know anything about history. While you did explain things, you could elaborate more on what the American Revolution is in the context. Give a run-down of what happened and who was involved, as well as why. I think another thing you can elaborate on is the Romanticism period in art, and how historical paintings were making an impact during this time period. If you talk about that in the context you’ll be able to better not only your OPTICC, but your understanding.

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  3. The reasoning why you chose this art was because you wanted to better understand the symbols expressed in this picture, since they are similar to symbols used in textbooks. The message was expressed in the OPTICC, though not the strongest. For example, you stated an important symbol was the flag. In your OPTICC, you mentioned the flag once, and didn’t really explain it. I do feel like the OPTICC has helped you better understand the history behind the American Revolution, since you obviously did some research and provided details about what happened. Your message could be clearer, but it’s there, and you did a good job at learning.

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