The question Emmanuel Leutze has answered is not, “What exactly was the crossing of the Delaware like?” but rather, “What is the enduring significance of the event–and of Washington’s role in it–and how can I allow my audience to see it?” What Leutze has shown is the meaning of Washington’s crossing.
Thanks to Emmanuel Leutze such justified hero worship is possible. In contemplating his depiction of Washington Crossing the Delaware, we are empowered to strip away every irrelevant facet of the story of Washington’s life and visualize the essential self of American’s Founding Father: the champion of a glorious cause, able to see that beyond the clash of arms lies a bright future, leading his men resolutely and with confidence.
Read the rest of the description and assessment of this painting!! Mr. Powell did a good job, so I won’t add anything — besides, he’s the professional historian, not me!
What’s more, from what Mr. Powell says, you can start to learn how to properly analyze and judge paintings.