Mort Künstler (born 28 August 1931) is an American artist known for his illustrative paintings of the American Civil War. His works are primarily sold as mass-produced printed reproductions. He is also known for earlier commercial illustration before turning to Civil War themes in the early 1980s, a body of work that dealt with America's national story: from portraits of prehistoric American life to the odyssey of the space shuttle. His work has also been published in illustrated books and magazines and used by advertising agencies.
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. During this time he published under at least two pen names, Martin Kay and Emmett Kaye ('plays' on his initials of "M" and "K"). Künstler said, "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 original The Poseidon Adventure and the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
In 1982, a commission from CBS-TV to do a painting for the 3-part mini-series The Blue and the Gray (televised November 1982) 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.
In 1992 the U.S. Postal Service commissioned Mr. Künstler to do a painting of the Buffalo Soldiers. The stamp was issued on April 22, 1994, in Dallas, Texas.
In Virginia, Governor James Gilmore officially declared a "Mort Künstler Day" in 1999, and in 2000, Governor 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. Later that year, a book by the same name was published by Rutledge Hill Press with a narrative by James I. Robertson, Jr. In a similar ceremony north of the Mason–Dixon line in Ohio, Mr. Künstler was selected as the Official Artist of the Ohio State Bicentennial, and his painting of General John Hunt Morgan's raid through Ohio was featured in a long-term exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
In 2001, Mr. Künstler was named the official artist for the motion picture Gods and Generals, and in 2002 Greenwich Workshop Press published his newest book: Gods and Generals: The Paintings of Mort Künstler. He also served as a consultant for the heralded Ron Maxwell motion picture, Gods and Generals, and his art publisher, American Spirit Publishing, released a series of historical Civil War limited edition prints of key historical events on which the motion picture was based. 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 M.O.S.B.
Mr. Künstler has also been named as an Official Artist for the H.L. Hunley, and unveiled a new painting of the H.L. Hunley during ceremonies in Charleston, South Carolina on April 17–18, 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.
In 2010 the Nassau County Museum of Art held their third exhibit of Künstler’s Civil War paintings in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For Us the Living - The Civil War in Paintings by Mort Künstler consisted of approximately 50 paintings accompanied by a selection of documentary objects. Visitors to a Künstler exhibition gained an inside look into the artist’s creative process through a display of his sketches, drawings, and preliminary studies.
Mr. Künstler was commissioned to paint an accurate depiction of Washington crossing the Delaware. Washington's Crossing was unveiled at the New-York Historical Society on December 26, 2011 - the 235th anniversary of the actual event.
In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a collection of over thirty original Civil War paintings by Künstler have been on exhibit at various museums. This traveling exhibit started in February 2012 at the VMI Museum in Lexington, Virginia and continued on to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War at New Market Battlefield State Historic Park and the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, South Carolina. During 2013 the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania will host the exhibit, followed by the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina. The traveling exhibit will conclude at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland in 2014.
On September 13, 2012, the U. S. National Archives in Washington, DC hosted “An Evening with Mort Künstler.” Mr. Künstler discussed pivotal moments in his career with Laurie Norton Moffat, Executive Director of the Norman Rockwell Museum, accompanied by a slide show of his works.
Mr. Künstler will be the sixth artist honored by the Booth Western Art Museum of Cartersville, Georgia with their Lifetime Achievement Award on February 15, 2014. He will join Howard Terpning, G. Harvey, Ken Riley, Fred Fellow, and Glenna Goodacre as the only honorees in the history of the award.
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 mass-produced reproductions sold at print shops and through the internet.
Over the years (since the late 1990s and/or early 2000s), the Postal Commemorative Society [PCS] has offered a Civil War commemorative envelope set known as the "Philatelic History of the Civil War featuring artwork by MKünstler." The 100 envelopes in this collection are cacheted [cachet -- kă / shā : a commemorative illustration on an envelope or post card created by an individual or company] with Künstler's Civil War artwork (in part/detail and whole); include Civil War related commemorative postage stamps; and, are postmarked on an anniversary date of the event commemorated on the envelope. The envelopes and accompanying "Fact Cards" are available only through a 'subscription service' at the rate of four envelopes/cards per month. Though recent advertising literature mentions the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the collection itself is not a sesquicentennial commemorative [years of postmarks found in one completed collection are 1996 and 2005 through 2013].
- Images of the Civil War: the Paintings of Mort Künstler (1992), ISBN 978-0-517-07356-8
- Gettysburg: The Paintings of Mort Künstler (Text by James M. McPherson) (1993), ISBN 1-878685-79-1
- 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
- Gabor Boritt, The Lincoln Enigma:The Changing Faces of an American Icon, Oxford University Press, 2001, page 178 
- Heritage Galleries auction archives.
- p.365 Ivy Press HCA Heritage Comics Auction Catalog 2006 Heritage Capital Corporation
- 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 feted as painting's unveiled
- Crossing the Delaware, More Accurately
- 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