New Releases

Last Piece Released by Mort Kunstler March 25 2015

We are proud to soon be releasing Mort Kunstler's eighth and final painting in “A Tribute to the Legend” series, Respect of an Army.
Respect of an Army
Appomattox C. H., Va., April 9 1865
       Perhaps one of the most touching scenes of the entire Civil War took place at the very end of the conflict. After four terrible years of fighting, the gallant Army of Northern Virginia had sustained great hardships and was unable to recover. Outnumbered, under-equipped and nearing desperation, the Confederate forces reluctantly conceded to their Union counterparts. After communicating through a series of dispatches, General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant agreed to meet to discuss the terms of surrender. The spot for this historic event took place at the McLean House at Appomattox Court House.
        According to the official account of the event, General Grant initiated the conversation by saying "I met you once before, General Lee, while we were serving in Mexico, when you came over from General Scott's headquarters to visit Garland's brigade, to which I then belong. I have always remembered your appearance, and I think I should have recognized you anywhere, "Yes," replied General Lee, "I know I met you on that occasion, and I have often thought of it and tried to recollect how you looked, but I have never been able to recall a single feature."
        After completing the terms, General Lee shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the other officers, and left the room. Grant's staff and those in attendance followed their former foe out onto the porch and front grounds as the Confederate commander signaled for his horse. According to eyewitness Lt. Col. Horace Porter:
While the animal was being bridled the general stood on the lowest step and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond where his army lay — now an army of prisoners. He smote his hands together a number of times in an absent sort of way; seemed not to see the group of Union of in the yard who rose respectfully at his approach, and appeared unconscious of everything about him. All appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial. The approach of his horse seemed to recall him from his reverie, and he at once mounted. General Grant now stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.
        The reverence and awe exhibited by the victors spoke directly to the character and reputation of their former enemy, who had risen against the odds time and time again to achieve success on the battlefield. Despite feeling an overwhelming .sense of relief that the war was over, no one that day took pleasure in Lee's personal defeat. Despite the circumstances that may have separated them, the soldiers who had fought so hard against one another shared a mutual respect that represented the first step toward reuniting the country.
Mort Kunstler's Comments
        My all-time favorite Civil War painting is the surrender scene pained for National Geographic's April 1965 issue. It shows Robert E. Lee signing the peace treaty in the parlor of the McLean House. The compassion and respect of General Grant and the Union officers in the room is apparent and very moving. What makes the painting even better are the likenesses of all the characters in the scene. This is an incredibly difficult chore for an artist, and my late friend Tom Lovell (1909-1997) made the painting a tour de force for his tale.
        I've known for some time that I would do an Appomattox surrender scene for the 150th anniversary of the event. The problem was I did not know exactly what I would paint. I always like to do something that no one else has done, and Appomattox has been painted thousands of times by hundreds of artists. Since I had already done a painting of Lee riding back through the Confederate lines after the signing — and I certainly was not going to attempt to do the same scene that my friend and idol had done so masterfully — that left me with Lee departing the McLean House and passing through the lines.
         While many artists have painted that event, none that I know of have ever shown the McLean House and Appomattox County Courthouse in the same scene. By walking around the property and studying maps I came up with a viewpoint, which does just that. I attempted to emulate Tom Lovell by trying to capture the likenesses of as many of the people as possible that were verified to have been there. Chief Historian Patrick Schroeder of Appomattox Court House National Park was of immeasurable help, supplying photos, maps, and drawings, and helping me solve the various problems that came up during the work on the painting. I can only hope that you, the viewer, enjoy this painting as much as I have enjoyed looking at the Lovell work.

Headquarters At Narrow Passage November 13 2014

Historical Information:

On March 23rd General Stonewall Jackson's army had suffered a tactical defeat at the Battle of Kernstown. But Jackson's boldness and audacity during the battle alarmed Federal officers to the point that the size of the Confederate force was greatly overestimated...

Mr. Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg April 15 2014

Historical Information:

On Wednesday, November 18, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln arrived in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to attend the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. His appearance came just four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg had ravaged the town and the surrounding region. Although the nation was still caught up in the American Civil War, this opportunity to consecrate hallowed ground offered a welcome reprieve for both the weary president and local spectators. The following day, Lincoln delivered what would become one of the most poignant speeches in American history, but for now, his arrival was celebrated with a campaign-like atmosphere.

The train that brought the president to Gettysburg also carried his secretaries, three members of his cabinet, a number of foreign ministers, and members of the military from Washington and Baltimore. The large crowd that was assembled at the station included Edward Everett, the keynote speaker for the ceremonies, and local attorney David Wills, who was the president’s host during his stay. As he left the passenger car, Lincoln was greeted with a round of cheers.

Despite his stately appearance, the president felt fatigued from his trip and was later diagnosed with a mild case of smallpox. In addition to the war effort, he was also worried about his son, who was ill at the time. Upon his arrival, Lincoln was handed a telegram that lifted his spirits. Tad was feeling much better. That evening, a more-relaxed president enjoyed dinner at the Wills’ residence and a serenade by the Fifth New York Artillery Band before retiring early to finalize his famous address. Although he spent only twenty-four hours in Gettysburg, Lincoln forever altered the town’s history with two hundred seventy-two words that continued to reverberate for the generations that followed.

Mort Künstler's Comments:

The moment I saw the Gettysburg Railroad Station fully restored in 2006 I knew I wanted to paint a scene of Lincoln’s arrival there. I recognized that it could be a great subject with the president as the center of interest, the background of the station, a grand locomotive, and the excitement of the crowd. Although the inspiration for the piece came easily, the composition for it was challenging and the first thought of doing it was intimidating. It would be, perhaps, the most difficult painting in a long career of difficult paintings.

Fortuitously, a number of events encouraged me. As 2013 commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, I felt that I should do a painting to honor the event. I had already painted the scene of Lincoln delivering his speech, so when the Railroad Station was finally restored, it triggered the idea for a different perspective. The last time I was in Gettysburg I had breakfast at the Lincoln Diner. That location is near the exact spot that this scene takes place and it reminded me of the event. I do not think that I would have approached this scene if not for the fact that Lincoln stood six feet four inches tall. Crowd scenes always present a unique challenge as the main character can become lost in the masses. Lincoln naturally stands out as he wore a stovepipe hat that made him look more than seven feet tall at a time when the average height of a man was five feet six inches. I knew that I would have no trouble making the eye go to Lincoln and to heighten the effect, I painted the black of his hat against the lightest part of the sky to create the most contrast. I also used perspective to draw the lines of the train and building toward Lincoln in order to ensure that he remained the focus of attention.

The train station is located one short block off the main plaza of Gettysburg. The Wills House, where Lincoln stayed the night before the famous speech, is on the plaza and is now a National Park Service museum dedicated to telling the story of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I thought it would be natural to choose David Wills as the one in the painting to be greeting the president. A small contingent of soldiers from the Veterans Reserve Corps accompanied Lincoln on his trip to Gettysburg. Some of them are seen surrounding the president.

After completing the painting early this year, I became acquainted with William Aldrich, who has been instrumental in the effort to save and restore the original station. Through meticulous research, Mr. Aldrich uncovered the information that the most likely locomotive supporting the Lincoln entourage was the Conewago. Additionally, through carbon dating of the seven layers of paint on the station, Mr. Aldrich was able to confirm that originally the building was a gray tone. When in Gettysburg, don’t miss the detailed model of the Conewago that Mr. Aldrich built and donated to the station.

I’m very pleased... and exhausted with the completion of this long term undertaking. I thought it might be of interest to some of you to see a few of the comments that were made by the various authorities I checked with on this painting:

"Every time I hear that Mort is doing a painting I get an idea of what it will look like when he’s done, but I’m always knocked out by the final product. This is really a great painting and I love the composition!"

    ~ John Heiser, Historian, Division of Visitor Services National Park Service, Gettysburg National Military Park

"Mort’s work brings alive an incredible moment in our nation’s history. I am pleased that he has chosen Lincoln’s arrival at Gettysburg station. By doing so he captures the significance of railroading in the everyday life of 19th-century Americans. A well-done masterpiece."

    ~ Dave Shackelford, Chief Curator, B&O Railroad Museum

"What a magnificent painting, each figure is so beautifully painted and contributes so greatly to the whole. The narrative behind the piece is truly wonderful as well."

    ~ Stephanie Plunkett, Deputy Director/Chief Curator, Norman Rockwell MuseumX

Ranger Farewell April 15 2014

John S. Mosby - The Old Chapel Cemetery, Shenandoah Valley - Winter 1864

The early years for Mosby's Rangers had been filled with exciting raids and adventures. The commander of the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, John Singleton Mosby, had filled the Partisan Ranger ranks with bold and daring young men from the local community. These men, many in their teens and twenties, were friends before hostilities began in 1861. Raised in the rural environment of the Shenandoah Valley, they were all skilled horsemen and crack shots. It was said that a Ranger could be riding at full gallop and fire 3 rounds into a tree before he passed. These skills accounted for many empty Federal saddles and brought notoriety to this elite force of scouts and guerrilla fighters.

The camaraderie of Mosby' Rangers manifests clearly in the old period photographs of the group. Earlier in the war Ranger losses were few and sporadic, but as the war progressed and casualties occurred more regularly, Mosby and his Rangers felt great sadness with the loss of each of their friends. The bond of brotherhood was like none other during times of war.

During the winter of 1864 Federal patrols were very active during the day searching for Rangers in the Shenandoah Valley. So it was under a moonlit sky that Mosby and a few of his men performed a secret nocturnal burial for one of their own at the Old Chapel Cemetery. Reading from the "Good Book", the fallen soldier was given a Ranger farewell.

"No human being knows how sweet sleep is but a soldier." - John Singleton Mosby

Artist’s Note:

I would like to express my appreciation to Mosby historian Donald C. Hakenson, for his invaluable assistance with this painting.