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The Portrait Of Patriotism Displayed In Mineola

Former county executive commissioned more accurate depiction of Washington crossing the Delaware River by local artist

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.”

News

In a typical Long Island community packed with houses and backyards, there are a couple of acres of open land of community gardens where people are growing basil and dahlias and roses and cabbages—people like Terry Dunckey of Westbury and Peg Woerner of Great Neck, tending their small plots and helping to promote sustainable and organic practices.

East Meadow Farm, off Merrick Avenue, is owned by Nassau County and operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Nassau County. Previously it was a family-owned farm that was purchased by the county through the Environment Bond Act Program, a $150 million program that called for, among several mandates, the preservation of 400 acres of open space. In 2009, CCE of Nassau was awarded the lease to the land and in January 2012 took possession of the property. East Meadow Farm is a place where we can get the best advice on how to make our gardens grow without harming the earth. Part of the CCE’s original proposal was the establishment of a farmer’s market and, now, the market is open two days a week, a place to purchase organic vegetables and flowers during the growing season.

Drivers—get ready to slow down. Nassau County is currently in the process of installing school zone speed cameras in an effort to enhance safety by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

Nassau County officials say they’re still investigating locations in the Mineola School District, while leaning towards installing cameras near the North Side or Willets Road schools in the East Williston School District. Cameras could begin operation in September.


Sports

Nobody wants to make excuses, but sometimes when the injury bug hits, it’s impossible to overcome. Mineola Mustangs football head coach Dan Guido, entering his 28th season at helm, knows the injuries were the cause for their first-round defeat at the hands of the West Hempstead Rams last November.

“There was too many injuries on the offensive line last season,” said Guido. “It was supposed to be our strength and it ended up being a weak link by the end of the season.”

Even with those injuries, the Mustangs went 4-4 during the regular season.

The BU15 Mineola Revolution were crowned champions of the Roar at the Shore Tournament 2014 in West Islip on Aug. 10. After dropping the opener 2-0 against North Valley Stream, Mineola bounced back to beat Freeport Premiere 2-1.

The Revolution’s offense exploded in the third game as they beat West Islip 7-0. Mineola’s final game pitted them against Quickstrike FC, which entered the contest without a loss and within a point of winning the tournament.


Calendar

Zoning Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Mineola Village Meeting

Wednesday, Sept. 3

School Board Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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