(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass.) – Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure, an exhibition that explores Mort Künstler’s vast and highly regarded body of work as an illustrator and historical painter, will be on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum from November 8, 2014 through March 8, 2015. An opening reception will be held at the museum on Saturday, November 15, from 6 to 8:30 pm, with comments from the artist at 6:30 p.m.
A print signing and reception will follow, including refreshments and a cash bar. Admission to the event costs $20; free for Museum members. RSVP by November 7 by contacting the museum at 413.931.2264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If an artist’s life reflected what they put down on canvas, one might assume Mort Künstler has lived one fascinating adventure. Known today for his meticulously researched historical paintings of such subjects as the Civil War, Künstler is also a prolific illustrator who has worked on a broad spectrum of assignments in different genres for over 50 years.
Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure, part of the museum’s Distinguished Illustrator Series, presents the first thorough retrospective of the artist’s career — from paperback book jackets and men’s adventure magazine illustrations, to movie posters, model kit boxes, and advertisements for prominent corporations. Künstler’s dramatic images, conceived in every possible genre, will be the focus of the exhibition. His romance, war, and sporting illustrations for True, Argosy, The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Afield, Outdoor Life, American Weekly, Men’s Story among others, and his contemporary historical paintings that capture the heroes and battles of the American Civil War, will be on view.
The exhibition will document the artist’s transition from traditional illustrator to historical narrative painter, whose limited edition signed prints have attracted a large and appreciative audience. Künstler’s artistic influences, which include Winslow Homer, Frederic Remington, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell, will be explored and represented in the exhibition, as well as childhood drawings that chart the development of his considerable artistic skills.
“As an art student in the 1940s, I idolized Norman Rockwell,” recalls Künstler. “I never had the good fortune to meet him, but I did have several phone conversations with him and some correspondence. I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum regularly, even before the present building, when it was known as the Old Corner House in the village of Stockbridge. To have a retrospective show of my works in a museum setting is great; to have it at the Norman Rockwell Museum is truly overwhelming.”
“Illustrators are our nation’s visual historians,” notes Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “One of the leading figures in the field, Mort Künstler’s art honors that tradition, and vividly brings America’s history to life. From dynamic renderings of the American Civil War to sensational pulp fiction — his art has shared America’s history and sense of adventure with generations of readers and fans.”
Born in 1931, Mort Künstler is one of our nation’s premiere historical artists. Künstler’s talent and training were nurtured from an early age. After studying art at Brooklyn College, UCLA, and Pratt Institute, he became a successful illustrator in New York where he received assignments from book and magazine publishers. An important part of his training resulted from his affiliation with National Geographic Magazine — it was through their assignments of historical subject matter that he learned the value of working with historians so that accuracy was firmly imbued into his concept.
In the early 1970s, 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 prestigious Hammer Galleries in New York City, he became known as an important painter of historic subjects. Since his first show in 1977, Künstler has had 13 more highly successful one-man shows at Hammer Galleries, and has been widely exhibited at museums across the country.
In 1982, a commission from CBS-TV to do artwork for the miniseries, “The Blue and The Gray” sparked the artist’s close association with the Civil War. Created through painstaking research, his painting, “The High Water Mark” was unveiled at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum in 1988, and he has been concentrating on Civil War subject matter since that time. Important commissions have included a 1992 United States postage stamp depicting the Buffalo Soldiers; serving as the official artist for the 2001 motion picture, “Gods and Generals;” and “Washington’s Crossing,” an accurate depiction of George Washington crossing the Delaware River, unveiled at the New York Historical Society on December 26, 2011, the 235th anniversary of the actual event, to great acclaim.
In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a collection of over 30 original Civil War paintings by Künstler were exhibited at various museums, including the Virginia Military Institute Museum in Lexington, Virginia; the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, South Carolina; Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania; North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina; and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland.
Virginia officially declared a “Mort Künstler Day” in 1999, and in 2000, Governor James Gilmore officially opened an exhibition at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond called “The Confederate Spirit: The Paintings of Mort Künstler,” which was the first one-man exhibition of a contemporary artist ever held at the museum. In 2002, Mr. Künstler became the first artist to be honored by a six-month, one-man exhibition at the new National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 2003, he received the Jefferson Davis Southern Heritage Award from the Military Order of the Stars and Bars – composed of descendants of the Southern officer corps – which followed his 2001 receipt of the Henry Timrod Southern Culture Award by the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. Mr. Künstler has also been named as an Official Artist for the H.L. Hunley, a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the Civil War, and unveiled a new painting of the H.L. Hunley during ceremonies in Charleston, South Carolina in 2004. He has also been commissioned to design and furnish all the artwork for the Middletown, Ohio Veterans Memorial, which was unveiled on July 4, 2004.|
The latest collection of the artist’s work, “The New Nation: The Creation of the United States in Paintings and Eyewitness Accounts: The Art of Mort Künstler” as published in October 2014. Mort Künstler currently lives with his wife Deborah, in Oyster Bay, New York.
Selected Exhibition-Related Events
Exhibition Opening Event
Saturday, November 15, 6 to 8 p.m.
A special opening event for Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure will be held at Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday, November 15, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., with comments from the artist at 6:30 p.m. A print signing and reception will follow, including refreshments and a cash bard. Admission to the event costs $20; free for Museum members. RSVP by November 7 by contacting the Museum at 413.931.2264 or email@example.com.
Imagining History: An Evening for Educators with Mort Künstler
Friday, November 14, 4:30 p.m.
Explore the connectivity between art, history, and the American experience during this special evening with acclaimed artist Mort Künstler.
Family Day! The Art of Adventure
Saturday, November 29, 1 p.m.
Celebrate the art of adventure during this family fun afternoon of performances, talks, tours, and a book/print signing by Mort Künstler. Storyteller Tony Toledo and sportsmen Rick Moon and Doug McDevitt will also be along for the ride.
Picturing the American Civil War
Saturday, February 21, 5:30 p.m.
Enjoy a conversation about the American Civil War, one of our nation’s most significant events, with artist Mort Künstler and author/Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal, Mr. Holzer is also an essayist for the exhibition catalogue for “Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure.”
Family Day! Bringing History to Life
Saturday, March 7, 1 p.m.
Immerse yourself in an afternoon of living history, with performances of Civil War music by Ampersand, as well as tours, art-making, and a talk/book signing by artist Mort Künstler.
Following its presentation at Norman Rockwell Museum, Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure will be on view at the Museum of Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia, from May 9 through August 2015; and the Citadelle Art Foundation in Canadian, Texas, from September 3 through November 15, 2015. The exhibition is organized by Norman Rockwell Museum.
Image credit: Mort Künstler, “Rendezvous with Destiny.” ©Mort Künstler. All rights reserved.