Between 1916 and 1920, Spencer occasionally deviated from his depictions of working-class life in and around New Hope to paint panoramic views of the Delaware River, just as his contemporaries were doing. Across the Delaware, a winter landscape, is perhaps the earliest in a series. It is the earliest Spencer painting in The Phillips Collection, and the only one without figures. Spencer concentrated only briefly on pure landscape, and returned to scenes in which landscape was merely a backdrop for figure compositions.
In composition and technique, Across the Delaware reflects the influence of fellow artist Daniel Garber's series of paintings depicting the quarries of New Hope: square format, horizontal layering of planes, and high horizon line designed to limit perspective and flatten the composition. Spencer’s picture, Across the Delaware, depicts the quarry and snow-draped dwellings reflected in the Delaware River with scintillating touches of color. To achieve this effect, Spencer scraped back the first layer of paint, then carefully placed over it thick horizontal daubs of colors from the embankment.