“It was most thoughtful of you to remember Georgetown in presenting this gift. We are so much involved in the origins of the United States, being founded in the year that our Constitution was adopted. Our Founder’s cousin, Charles Carroll of Carrollton signed the Declaration of Independence and his brother affixed his name to the Constitution. George Washington and he were friends and the Father of our Country sent our Founder on a mission with Benjamin Franklin to keep the French of Canada neutral during the American Revolution.”
~Bernard B. Bunn, President of Georgetown University, to W.H. Walters, June 15, 1962
W.H. Walters donated four paintings by Henry Mosler to Georgetown in 1962. All four works represent themes related to the American Revolution. W.H. Walters was the chairman of the Diamond National Company in New York City at the time. He donated the paintings to Georgetown to commemorate his son Bernard’s admission to Georgetown College.
Who was Henry Mosler?
Henry Mosler (1841–1920) was born in Silesia, Germany, and soon after moved to New York with his family. After a few years, his family relocated to Cincinnati, where a substantial German-Jewish community lived at that time. It was in Cincinnati that Mosler became interested in the arts and started to build his career as a Jewish American artist.
At the height of the Civil War, Mosler worked as an art correspondent for Harper’s Weekly. He was immediately recognized for his artistic promise and vivid depictions of American life. To refine his skill, Mosler traveled to the Royal Academy in Düsseldorf in 1863. He then spent the next three years traveling and visiting some of the major art centers in Europe, including Paris. During his time in Europe, he had the opportunity to study under many well-known artists of the time, including French painter and academic Ernest Hebert.
In 1866, Mosler returned to Cincinnati, where he received numerous portrait commissions. As time went on, Mosler continued to paint American patriotic scenes and portraits of men and women of high society. He was greatly inspired by the Old Masters (which he learned more about during his time in Europe), which is reflected in his detailed compositions and bold use of color.
The artist eventually returned to France where he was awarded several honors for his submissions to the Paris salons in the late 1800s. He was the first American to be honored by the French government and by the Museum of Luxembourg in 1878. Mosler was also one of the first Jewish American artists to establish himself internationally.
Throughout his career, Henry Mosler developed multiple identities. As an American artist he depicted various scenes of American life and is known for his nationalistic point of view. He also explored his Jewish identity by painting scenes that relate to the Jewish community. Mosler, in fact, characterized art as his spiritual connection and often described his art as emanating from a spiritual place. And after spending a large portion of his career in Europe, Mosler was able to create works that appealed to a wide audience.
In 1894 Mosler settled in New York, where he became a popular instructor and in 1895 was made an associate member of the National Academy of Design. During his later years in New York, Mosler was commissioned by The Mentor magazine to complete several large paintings on the American Revolutionary period. The paintings were displayed alongside historical descriptions of the scenes depicted in the magazine’s January 8, 1913 issue.
Colonial genre and history painting was a popular theme during the centennial celebration in 1876 and was revived again in the early twentieth century. Mosler chose to depict the following iconic moments in American history:
Ring, Ring for Liberty! (c. 1909)
The Birth of the Flag (1911)
Washington Crossing the Delaware (c. 1912)