Especially For You
by Mort Kunstler
Winchester, Virginia, May 25, 1862
Mort Künstler's comments: It’s the personal events that humanize the Civil War for me. A soldier saying goodbye to his wife. An officer having his sword “blessed” in the family parlor. A couple savoring a ﬂeeting moment of romance at a farewell party. Lee and Jackson conferring for the last time. To me, those are the images of the Civil War that portray that great generation of Americans in the mid-19th Century. As the World War II generation is the “Greatest Generation” of our day, I believe the Civil War generation was the “Greatest Generation” of the 19th Century. Their fortitude, their faith, their sacriﬁces, their sense of duty—those are the character traits that deﬁne their generation and make the terrible conﬂict they endured so memorable. As I have painted scenes from the Civil War over the years, I’ve tried to portray and preserve that very personal side of the war as a historical reﬂection of the Civil War generation of Americans—and as a tribute to them as well. I hope that’s what Especially for You conveys. The setting of the painting is Winchester, Virginia. The important Shenandoah Valley town repeatedly changed hands during the war, as it was occupied at different times by Federal and Confederate armies. This event is set on May 25, 1862, as General Stonewall Jackson’s army enters the town in a victorious parade. One of my ﬁrst Civil War paintings, Stonewall Jackson Enters Winchester; depicts the same event from a different perspective. In Especially for You, General Jackson and his staff have already passed, and the focus of the painting is the soldiers in the ranks. The center of interest is the young girl who is handing an apple to a young infantryman passing through town on the march. The girl’s mother is looking on proudly, and behind—watching appreciatively—is another Southern woman holding a little boy in her arms. Nearby, an older boy excitedly watches the passing of the army from the brick sidewalk. Incidentally, this is somewhat of a family portrait for me. My granddaughter Laura posed as the girl with the apple and her mother is my wife Deborah. My grandson Andrew posed for the boy on the sidewalk. The mother and baby are my daughter Jane and my grandson Tom. I used a number of artistic devices to heighten the emotion of the painting. To emphasize the apple, I placed the boy’s drum directly behind the two hands, and used the dappled sunlight coming through a tree to spotlight the little girl and the soldier. In the background is Winchester’s Senseny Building, which is shown in bright sunlight to contrast with the young soldier’s face in shade. The building is completely restored as the Feltner Building today, and houses the Feltner Community Foundation Museum. While the painting is set at a real event in a real time and place, I could have painted a similar scene of Northern troops marching through Pennsylvania in 1863, or leaving home for war. The painting not only depicts Jackson’s army and the residents of Winchester, Virginia—it also reﬂects the American heart of the day. Civilians on both sides were so willing to bear burdens, endure hardship and support the men in uniform. The troops were so conscious of the obligations of duty and had such a determination to persevere. What remarkable character traits! It’s what makes the Civil War so tragic—-Americans opposed to Americans-—and also what reunited the nation afterward. What a remarkable people they were—determined to do their duty in what they believed was right, then equally determined to reconcile to each other and “win” the peace. I hope that the Civil War generation’s optimistic willingness to make the best of hard times is what comes across in Especially for You. It’s one of my favorite paintings. It’s especially for you, the viewer, and especially for all my friends in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
|Archival Paper||14" x 15"|
|Giclee Print||17" x 18"|