Struggle Series - No. 10: Washington Crossing the Delaware

Jacob Lawrence (American, Atlantic City, New Jersey 1917–2000 Seattle, Washington )

Egg tempera on hardboard
12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2003
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    Lawrence was one of America's premiere storytellers for over sixty years. His subjects most often relate to the African-American experience, but sometimes he also addressed broader issues, depicting events from American history that tell about hardship, determination, and other challenges to the human spirit. Between 1954 and 1956 he produced thirty pictures about the American Revolution and Constitution, the Western Migration, the Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution that he collectively titled Struggle…From the History of the American People. Those images, plus thirty more never executed, were originally intended for publication with captions written by Lawrence's friend, Jay Leyda (the project was never realized).
    The caption for this Washington Crossing the Delaware, the tenth panel in the Struggle series, relates: "We crossed the River at McKonkey's Ferry 9 miles above Trenton…the night was excessively severe…which the men bore without the least murmur…--Tench Tilghman, 27 December 1776." Lawrence abstractly interpreted this scene of war-weary soldiers huddled under blankets and three small rowboats on choppy waters as a series of jagged triangular forms punctuated by strong diagonal lines. Standing at the helm at lower left is their leader, General George Washington, his head and back bent stalwartly into the oncoming wind.

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