The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Acquires Robert Colescott’s Landmark Painting “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware”

Robert Colescott, "George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook," 1975

Los Angeles, CA, May 13, 2021 — The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art today confirmed that it purchased Robert Colescott’s 1975 painting George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook at auction at Sotheby’s New York on May 12.

The monumental painting, measuring 78 ½ x 98 ¼ inches, has been exhibited and published many times since it was first shown in a museum, in the Whitney’s 1978 traveling exhibition Art About Art. Over the years, it has come to be seen as the apex work in the career of Robert Colescott (1925–2009) and a stunning breakthrough in late 20th-century American art, emboldening many other artists with its outspoken Blackness, outraged and outrageous political content, high-handed appropriation of art history, and scabrous, satirical use of cartoon imagery.

Writing about the painting in 1984 for Artforum, Lowery Stokes Sims called George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware “a veritable masterpiece of unparalleled formal rigor and graphic grandeur,” which “radically rewrites the American national self-mythology, parodying the grandeur of historical genre painting while exposing the structural racial divides of the United States.”

Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Lucas Museum, said, “The acquisition of this significant painting brings into our collection a dynamic vehicle for exploring the many dimensions of narrative art. It is at once a contemporary and historical work of art. Visitors to the Lucas Museum will be able to explore and unpack racially, socially and historically charged and significant figures, such as George Washington Carver, Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, that Colescott intrudes into the patriotic narrative known from popular culture and Emmanuel Leutze’s iconic, 1851 Washington Crossing the Delaware. Our hope is that they will consider how a visual artist can charge and change the story with complex histories and emotions.”

George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware River was first exhibited in 1975 at John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco. A private collector in Saint Louis acquired the painting from the gallery in 1976, and the work has remained in that collection until now.


About the Lucas Museum’s Collection

The Lucas Museum’s collection numbers more than 100,000 objects and is rapidly growing. It embraces narrative artworks from cultures around the world and of almost every era. The collection spans traditions from Northern European painting to contemporary African sculpture, from Japanese ukiyo-e prints to panels of murals, from book and magazine illustrations to the arts of filmmaking.

About the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

As the first museum to focus exclusively on storytelling through images, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art believes that visual storytelling can connect us and help shape a more just society. With a growing collection that encompasses artworks from across cultures, places, times, and mediums, including paintings, sculptures, murals, photography, comic art, book and magazine illustrations, and the arts of filmmaking, the Lucas Museum will explore narrative art’s potential to prompt questions, invite opinions, inspire community, and move people to think about the impact of images on our world.

Co-founded by George Lucas and Mellody Hobson and led by director and CEO Sandra Jackson-Dumont, the Lucas Museum was designed by renowned architect Ma Yansong of MAD Architects with Stantec as executive architect and is under construction in Los Angeles’s Exposition Park. An 11-acre campus with extensive new green space designed by Studio-MLA will embrace the museum’s 300,000-square-foot building, which will feature expansive galleries, two state-of-the-art theaters, and dedicated spaces for learning and engagement, dining, retail, and events.