Written by Rich Forestano Tuesday, 20 November 2012 00:00
The image of General George Washington crossing the Delaware River is an indelible moment etched into the psyche of American History. The regal, alluring 1851 Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze painting has been showcased clear across the globe, marveled by art lovers and passersby.
As the hours ticked away on Christmas in 1776, the frigid night before the Battle of Trenton, Washington and his men inched towards New Jersey, surprising Hessian forces with an American attack. The story would go on to immortalize the first president of the United States.
Although the 161-year-old piece that now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art amazes anyone who gets to see it, there’s just one thing…it’s a bit off, according to a certain Long Island painter.
Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi commissioned Cove Neck artist Mort Küntsler to correct the known errors of Leutze’s work, most notably the American flag, the size of the boat and the light source in the painting. The work was recently on display at Chaminade High School’s Athletic Center in Mineola where the two gave a talk to students, highlighting the path from the painting’s inception to its unveiling in December 2011.
The idea of Küntsler, a respected Civil War painter, to take on this daunting task originated during a trip to the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor. His reaction to Suozzi was a stern ‘no’ initially.
“This is an iconic image that everyone in the world knows,” Küntsler said of his first response. “How am I going to do anything with it? I didn’t know much about the situation at the time.”
With his work spanning about two months, Küntsler painted a dark sky, with snow falling as the ferry, not a rowboat, reached Trenton. While Leutze’s version depicts chunks of ice piercing the surface of the water, Küntsler’s features flat sheets of frozen areas of the Delaware River intruding on Washington’s mission, which according to Küntsler is how the river usually solidifies.
Küntsler called his painting, dubbed “Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry,” the most important painting he has completed in his life. In both paintings, the then-future president is standing at the front of the ferry, but in Küntsler’s piece, Washington is clinging to a canon.
Why? Because the flag he’s holding in Leutze’s version was not in use until 1777.
“Mr. Suozzi was so enthusiastic about it that he drove me down to McKonkey’s Ferry,” Kuntsler said. “Washington’s Crossing is the name of the town now. To get a large number of troops, horses and covered wagons across during that time, they had ferryboats.
“[Washington] ran a cable down stream and they used poles, not oars and at the same time, the [rip] current is taking them down stream and the boat has to be down stream of the cable, otherwise it’s going to get fouled up.”
Suozzi, a history buff, said it was a no-brainer to commission Küntsler to create the painting.
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art says this is the most visited painting they have,” Suozzi said of the Leutze’s version. “It’s a beautiful, inspirational painting…but it’s completely inaccurate. [Mort’s] painting will be the one they’re putting in textbooks one day.”
David Hackett Fischer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Washington’s Crossing, which Küntsler read while working on the project, called the piece a “major effort at accuracy from a study of the historical evidence.”
While saying one can’t compare to the other, Fischer, a history professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts since 1962, stated that Küntsler went farther in the direction of using primary resources in creating the painting than Leutze.
“The results are interesting and attracting to a historian’s eye. I think the Leutze painting is a cultural icon of great imminence and will always remain so. It operates on a different level that way so I don’t think it’s useful to try to compare their merits because they’re different sources of work with different purposes.”
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The spirit of giving during the holiday season is ramping up and two Mineola-based organizations were one of the first beneficiaries. The Family & Children’s Association and the Winthrop Cancer Center for Kids recently received 325 Toys
“R” Us gift cards totaling $8,125 from MSC Industrial Direct Co., a metalworking supply company headquartered in Melville. The two groups have received gift cards from MSC’s Annual Toys “R” Us Holiday Gift Card Program for the past several years.
The Family & Children’s Association is a multi-faceted organization that helps foster children, homeless youth, runaway teens, struggling families, veterans, and even senior citizens. While the association has a hand in many types of community outreach, it started out as an orphanage and still places an important emphasis on housing. The goal is simple—to keep families together.
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:00
The Village of Mineola is in the process of acquiring multiple properties as a result of the completion of the Long Island Rail Road Crossing Elimination project. The board of trustees recently passed a resolution to start the process.
All open items involving the project have been resolved by the New York State Department of Transportation. State law, according to village attorney John Spellman, allows villages to attain properties within the project.
“That project involved eliminating at-grade crossings at Herricks Road, Roslyn Road and the reconstruction the Mineola Boulevard Bridge,” Spellman said. “We recommended that the village pass a resolution accepting these properties so that we can begin the process of officially acquiring them.”
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
MAA Travel Soccer teams wrapped up their respective fall 2013 seasons recently. Two MAA teams won titles this season in the Long Island Junior Soccer League; the BU13 Mineola Empire went 9-0-1 and the GU14 Red Bulls enjoyed a 8-1-1 campaign to each win first place trophies. The GU11 Honey Badgers went undefeated (6-0-2) and finished in second place in their division, as did the GU15 Mini-Mustangs with a 7-1-1 season record.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The Mineola 12U fall intramural baseball team celebrated their fall season and tournament championship with a pizza party/awards dinner on Nov. 20. In addition to celebrating a great fall season and tournament championship, the boys were treated to an inspirational talk by coach Ken Conrade, the 2013 New York State High School Coach of the Year.
Conrade, the Kellenberg Memorial High School assistant principal for academics and girls varsity softball coach, was the keynote speaker for the awards dinner. He presented a very talked about baseball and youth sports.
Conrade’s talk was framed around each inning of a baseball game. He used stories and examples from the first to an extra “10th inning” to drive home both a sports and life lesson. For example, as part of the seventh inning stretch, he had each player stand up, stretch their legs and then go and thank their parents for their support and commitment to their baseball playing.