The Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Visual Arts Reflection Paper

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The Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Visual Arts Reflection Paper

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The visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visual Arts Reflection Paper


On Friday, October 27th, I took a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This is my first time visiting this museum, but my impression is tremendous. The museums have a wide range of art collections, exhibitions and special spaces that has strengthened my understanding my personal art experience. This multi-culture museum is gorgeous inside and out and has sculptures and painting from all around the world. The museum has successfully installed an overall picture that reflects the aesthetic values, history, religious beliefs and daily life. I was in amazement at all the pieces and the interesting stories behind them.

The first piece I chose is Washington Crossing the Delaware because it is one of the paintings I often see in the U.S history textbook. The sheer size of Leutze’s canvas, 25 X 21 feet pulls anyone standing before it into the scene. The 1851 oil-on-canvas representational painting depicts George Washington, then a general in the American Revolutionary War, crossing the half icy Delaware River with his troops on a winter night of December in 1776. This was to make a surprise attack on the Hessian forces in the Battle of Trenton in New Jersey. I was surprised to find out that it was not painted by American artist but by a German artist named Emanuel Leutze who did it in response to German politics. Leutze was a German immigrant who grew up in American and returned back to Germany as an adult. He strongly believed in liberal democracy and painted this American Revolution scene to encourage Europe’s liberal reforms during the European Revolutions of 1848. As his aim was to glorify the General Washington and his military action, there is little historical accuracy and composed more symbolism in the painting.

First, the size of the boat is far too small to bring the twelve men who occupy it. It would not be also possible to carry two horses on the boat or stand on the thin icy layer in the middle of the river to control the horse. At the first glance, I can notice who George Washington is even if I did not remember his appearance. His body proportion is slightly bigger than the other figures. His green saber really stands out to me as he is a powerful warrior. Wearing his army uniform, hat, boots, and a red-lined cape, Washington is standing upright on one leg and is looking straight to left where the boat is heading. I feel Washington’s determination and courage in facing the battle ahead as he leans forward into the wind. I can also see the obvious implied movement in the painting because other men on in the lead boat are struggling to break the choppy ice and puddling the boat. Other boats follow, crowded with soldiers and horses. The critics have also noted that the people on the boats are different ethnicity that would have been present in that time as they all have the different clothing designs. There is also a man, behind Washington, holding a flag which is moving by the wind seems to suggest that it is the inspirational symbol for the troops.

Leutze used a number of elements in this painting. First thing I notice is the use of a triangular composition.  The lead boat forms a large triangle which extends from the top of the flag to the boat’s bow and back to its stern. Other triangles can be also seen in other boats. The use of the atmospheric perspective is eminent in this painting. In the background, there are not outlines which convey the illusions that the interminable line of boats seems to go on forever. An atmospheric haze also indicates the distance of the opposite shore. Figures in the background are smaller than those in the foreground.  The use of color of the cloud is interesting for me as well. On the right side, there is the dark kind of ominous clouds whereas the left side has the unnatural source of light which is shining brightly. I feel that this metaphorically suggest that Washington and his troops are moving out from the underneath of the clouds of darkness and despair into the light and the brightness of their nation’s future. This clearly complete Leutze’s aim of inspiring the reformers to hold the American revolution as an example of a battle for freedom.