Washington Crossing the Delaware: George Washington

  • Alex Katz, Washington Crossing the Delaware: George Washington, 1961, wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Aaron Kozak, 1982.121

In 1959, Alex Katz began painting figures on canvas, cutting them out and then pasting them onto wooden boards. Two years later the playwright Kenneth Koch saw an exhibition of these and asked Katz to produce the props and sets for his one-act play George Washington Crossing the Delaware. In Koch’s satire, Washington’s famous crossing was motivated by his childhood when, after cutting down the cherry tree, the young Washington swam across a river to avoid his father’s wrath. The play became an underground hit largely because of Katz’s irreverent image of Washington. At the time, art critic Irving Sandler described the cutouts as the perfect setting for the delivery of such lines as the following from the father of our country: I am tired and I need sleep. Good night America.’ ”

I do not think that sets or costumes should decorate a play … Rather, they should interpret the spirit and present it as strongly as the play.” Alex Katz, quoted in Sandler, In the Art Galleries,” New York Post, February 91964
Washington Crossing the Delaware: George Washington
Not on view
73 7839 786 38 in. (187.8101.316.2 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Aaron Kozak

Mediums Description
  • Portrait male – Washington, George – knee length
  • Object – weapon – sword
  • History – United States – Revolution
  • Dress – uniform – military uniform
  • Waterscape – river – Delaware River
  • Occupation – military – general
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

More Artworks from the Collection