A few years ago I wrote about why you should visit the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona. If you didn’t follow my advice then, or even if you did, it’s time to visit—now. Why, you might ask? Well, it just so happens that the museum has acquired one of the world’s most famous patriotic paintings, “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”
The painting, which was completed by German-born artist Emanuel Leutze in 1851, depicts George Washington and his soldiers triumphantly crossing the icy Delaware River during the American Revolution. It was meant to inspire Germans to rebel against their rulers, and made Leutze one of the most famous artists of his day. This one that hangs in Winona (along with its original frame) is one of two surviving versions—there was a third at a German museum, but a British bombing destroyed it in 1942. Its larger companion hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where it is the most visited piece of art there. Winona’s smaller, but identical piece, which measures at 3-by-6 feet as compared to 12-by-21 feet, was the first of the two created, sort of a first trial before attempting a more behemoth version, as is often common practice for artists.
The painting was purchased from a private collector who had it on loan to the White House for the past 35 years, and was unveiled at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum late last month. It’s in good company there, as the museum is home to other great works by artists such as Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, and O’Keefe. When the museum first opened in 2006, it did so with the intention of showcasing exhibits that explored the continuing and historic relationship between humans and water. And while it has stayed true to that, today the museum is also home to a large variety of works by some of the greatest European and American masters. Ten or more historical and contemporary exhibits are on display at any given time, with collections in the categories of Traditional Marine Art, Hudson River School and Luminism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Realism, Modernism, and Contemporary.