Mort Künstler (born 1931) is a historical artist in the United States of America whose work now focuses mainly on the American Civil War. Before he turned to the Civil War in the early 1980s, he had built a body of work that dealt with America's national story: from portraits of prehistoric American life to the odyssey of the space shuttle. He work has been published in illustrated books and magazines, and used by advertising agencies.
“Mort Künstler is the foremost Civil War artist of our time – if not of all time. To study his paintings, is to simply see history alive.” Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr., Civil War historian and author of Stonewall Jackson—The Man, The Soldier, The Legend
“Of all the artists working in the Civil War field, none captures the human element, the aura of leadership, the sense of being there and sharing in the drama, quite like Mort Künstler. He has that enviable talent of being able to re-create history on canvas and to translate events into art.” James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Battle Cry of Freedom
Künstler studied art at Brooklyn College, U.C.L.A. and Pratt Institute. After graduating, he worked as a freelance artist in New York, where he received assignments from book and magazine publishers. In 1953, he supplied painted covers for several Classics Illustrated titles, including Pitcairn's Island and A Study in Scarlet. He drew covers and other art for paperback books and men's adventure magazines. Künstler completed at least three cover illustrations and two inside illustrations every month, for MagazineManagement alone. It's the main reason he used pen names such as Martin Kay and Emmett Kaye. "The editors didn't want it to look like one person was doing all the art." He also did art for Aurora model kit boxes, such as the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima kit. He used the alias "Mutz" to draw back covers for issues of Mad Magazine, and did posters for movies such as The Poseidon Adventure and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Künstler's paintings began attracting the attention of serious art collectors. At first the interest was mainly in his Western subject matter, but after a major museum retrospective exhibition and a one-man show at the Hammer Galleries in New York City, he became known as an important painter of historic subjects. Mr. Künstler’s fifteenth one-man show at Hammer Galleries was in 2006.
In 1982, a commission from CBS-TV to do a painting for the mini-series The Blue and the Gray directed Mr. Künstler's interest towards the Civil War. Although the research was painstaking, he devoted much time to making sure that his painting The High Water Mark was meticulously correct. The painting was unveiled at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum on July 2, 1988 in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the battle.
Mr. Künstler has been the subject of more than a dozen books. His most recent book is due to be released in November 2010, For Us the Living The Art of Mort Künstler - The Civil War in Paintings and Eyewitness Accounts', published by Sterling with text by Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. and Foreword by Harold Holzer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Künstler's artwork features dramatic interpretations of American historical events, namely, the American Civil War. The majority of Künstler paintings are done in oil on canvas. They are sold as limited edition prints at art galleries and through the Internet.
- Images of the Civil War: the Paintings of Mort Künstler (1992), ISBN 978-0-517-07356-8
- Jackson & Lee: Legends in Gray (1995), ISBN 978-1-55853-333-2
- Mort Künstler's Old West. Cowboys. (1998), ISBN 978-1-55853-588-6
- Mort Künstler's Old West. Indians. (1998), ISBN 978-1-55853-589-3
- Gods and Generals: the Paintings of Mort Künstler (2002), ISBN 978-0-86713-084-3
- The Civil War Paintings of Mort Künstler (2006), ISBN 978-1-58182-556-5
- For Us the Living: The Civil War in Paintings and Eyewitness Accounts (2010), ISBN 978-1-4027-7034-0
Museums and institutions - Permanent collections (List incomplete)
- California: San Mateo County Historical Museum, San Mateo; San Joaquin County Historical Museum, Lodi; California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento; Lowie Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley; California Museum of Science and Technology, Los Angeles; Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley.
- Canada: The Glenbow Museum, Calgary.
- Colorado: The Air Force Museum, Boulder.
- Delaware: The Hagley Museum, Wilmington.
- Florida: Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach.
- Georgia: Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville.
- Germany: Erstes Imaginares Museum, Wasserburg.
- Indiana: Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart.
- Maryland: U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis; Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown.
- Missouri: Dunnegan Gallery of Art, Bolivar.
- New Jersey: Hudson County Court House, Jersey City.
- New York: National Art Museum of Sport, Madison Square Garden, New York; Vanderbilt Museum, Centerport; Old Orchard Museum, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Oyster Bay; Museum of American Illustration, New York; Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn; Federal Hall, National Parks Foundation, New York; Mark Twain Center, Elmira; Hillwood Gallery, C.W. Post Campus, Long Island University, Greenvale; Museum of American Immigration at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, New York; United States Merchant Marine Academy Museum, Kings Point; Bayville Museum, Bayville.
- North Carolina: Alamance County Historical Museum, Burlington; North Caroliniana Society, Chapel Hill; North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh.
- Oregon: Favell Museum, Klamath Falls.
- Pennsylvania: United States Army War College, Carlisle Barracks; The National Civil War Museum, Harrisburg.
- South Carolina: Ft. Sumter National Monument Museum, Charleston; Charleston Museum, Charleston; Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, Charleston.
- South Dakota: Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum, St. Francis, Rosebud Sioux Reservation.
- Tennessee: The Hermitage, Nashville; Tennessee State Museum, Nashville.
- Texas: Diamond M Museum, Snyder.
- Virginia: Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond.
- Washington, DC: U.S. Navy Memorial Museum; U.S. Marine Corps Museum; NASA; U.S. Secret Service; National Guard Bureau, Pentagon; Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; U.S. House of Representatives; U.S. Senate.
One Man Exhibitions
- 1977 Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida
- 1977 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1978 Old Orchard Museum, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Oyster Bay, New York
- 1979 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1979 U.S. Navy Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1981 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1981 Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- 1982 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1982 Hillwood Gallery, C.W. Post Campus, Long Island University, Greenvale, New York
- 1982 U.S. Navy Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1983 Saks Galleries, Denver, Colorado
- 1984 Old Orchard Museum, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Oyster Bay, New York
- 1985 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1986 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1986 Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland
- 1987 Conacher Galleries, San Francisco. California
- 1989 Museum of Westward Expansion, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri
- 1989 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1991 Dunnegan Gallery of Art, Bolivar, Missouri
- 1992 Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- 1992 Hall of Valor Museum, New Market Battlefield, Virginia
- 1992 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1993 Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- 1993 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1995 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1995 North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, North Carolina
- 1998 Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, New York
- 1998 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 1999 Leon Loard Gallery, Montgomery, Alabama
- 2000 Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia
- 2000 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 2002 The National Civil War Museum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- 2003 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 2004 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 2005 Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, Georgia
- 2006 Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, New York
- 2006 Hammer Galleries, New York
- 2010 Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, New York - September 25, through January 9, 2011
Major Commissions (List Incomplete) American Cyanamid, Crum & Forster, Exxon, F&M Bank-Winchester, General Electric, Hesston Corporation, Landmark Bancshares Corporation, National Distillers, New York Bank for Savings, Rockwell International, Texaco, Twentieth Century Fox, U.S. Army War College, U.S. Bank and Trust Company, U.S. Steel, Warner Brothers, Westvaco.
Participation in Museum Exhibitions (List Incomplete)
- Boston Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts
- Colorado History Museum, Denver, Colorado
- Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences, Florida
- Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Hall of Valor Museum, New Market Battlefield, Virginia
- Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Museum of Westward Expansion, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri
- New York Hall of Science, Queens, New York
- New York Historical Society Museum, New York, New York
- North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, North Carolina
- Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
- Old Orchard Museum, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Oyster Bay, New York
- Sewall Art Gallery, Rice University, Houston, Texas
- Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, Tennessee
- Union Carbide Gallery, New York, New York
- U.S. Customs House Gallery, New York, New York
- U.S. Navy Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
- Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland
- Woodbridge Museum, Woodbridge, New Jersey
- pag 235-236 The American Spirit, Art by Mort Künstler, text by Henry Steel Commanger
- pag 5-6, Heritage Auction Galleries, catalogue May 2010
- pag 5-10 Franklin Hill Perrell, The American Spirit, catalogue 2006
- Mort Künstler at American Art Archives
- Interview at the Pritzker Military Library
- Mort Künstler - The American Spirit, essay by Franklin Hill Perrell
- Applying Brushstrokes to the Civil War, NYTimes.com
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