Born: Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany
“Communism feeds on aggression, hatred and imprisonment of mens mind and souls. This shall not be the root of the United States”
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Emanuel Gottleib Leutze’s parents emigrated to the United States in 1825 to settle in Philadelphia. During the following years his father’s illness and subsequent death forced Leutze to abandon his education in order to help support his family. In 1834, however, he began studying under the drawing master John Rubens Smith and soon thereafter embarked upon a career as an itinerant portrait painter. The few historical paintings which he executed during this period were greeted with considerable praise and he was encourage to pursue his artistic education abroad. Leutze embarked for Europe in 1840 and in the following year he settled in Dusseldorf and enrolled in its academy as a history painter. During the following two years he studied under such artists as Karl Freidrich Lessing and Wilhelm von Schadow and in 1842 his Return of Columbus in Chains to Cadiz (private collection) brought him international fame. In the following years, however, he became disallusioned with rigorous structure of the Academy and proceeded to take a two-year sojourn through Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. Upon returning to Dusseldorf, Leutze married Juliane Lottner and opened a studio which ws independent of the Academy. During the following years Leutze became the center of the American community living in Dusseldorf and was soon considered one of the preeminent American artists living abroad.
In 1849 he began painting Washington Crossing the Delaware (Metropolitan Museum of Art) which he brought to the United States for exhibition in 1851. Leutze returned to Dusseldorf the following year with numerous commissions and continued to work on historical paintings and portraits for the following six years. In 1858, however, his hopes of obtaining a commission to paint a mural for the rotunda of the Capitol led him to return to the United States. Upon his arrival the following year he opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York and in 1861 commenced Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (United States Capitol). Leutze made a brief return to Dusseldorf in 1863, but the remainder of his life was spent primarily in New York and Washington. He remained actively engaged as an artist throughout his last years, and though he was a native of Germany who spent relatively few years living in America he always considered himself a native of the United States. Although Leutze was always a strong advocate of the National Academy of Design, and had served on its Council for the 1865-66 term, he resigned from its body for undisclosed reasons shortly before his death.