Legendary Painting Reaches Alaska After 150 Years
The artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is certainly best known for painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, which still hangs in the West Wing of the White House. But he has also documented other significant events in American history.
On March 30th, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward successfully negotiated for the United States to acquire Alaska from the Russian Empire. Leutze’s painting of the event captures the negotiations between Russian and American dignitaries and resides in the Seward House Museum in Auburn, New York.
To many, the painting is known as the Alaska Purchase and is the most recognizable image of the acquisition, but it is also not without controversy. Alaska Natives dispute Russian ownership of the territory and do not view the transaction as a “purchase.” For this reason, Alaska Natives often refer to the painting as The Signing of the Alaska Treaty of Cession on March 30, 1867 instead.
Ironically, this legendary painting has never touched Alaskan soil. In fact, the original painting has never left the Seward House Museum. With the 150th Anniversary of the Alaska Treaty of Cession occurring next month, however, the time seemed right for Leutze’s original painting to make the trip to Alaska.
FedEx donated its services to help ship the painting from New York to Alaska. It reached Alaska for the very first time on Feb. 8, 2017. It will be showcased in exhibits across the state, making its way to museums in Fairbanks, Juneau, and Anchorage, before returning to the Seward House Museum.
To the people of Alaska, this painting serves not only as a document of what transpired 150 years ago, but also a connection among all the people of Alaska.