Mort Künstler

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Mort Künstler (born August 28, 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.[1] 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.[2] 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."[citation needed] 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,[3] 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.


Künstler's artwork features dramatic interpretations of American historical events, primarily 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].


Museums and institutions who have examples of his work[edit]

  • Pritzker Military Museum & Library


  1. ^ Gabor Boritt, The Lincoln Enigma:The Changing Faces of an American Icon, Oxford University Press, 2001, page 178 [1]
  2. ^ Heritage Galleries auction archives.
  3. ^ 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

Other sources[edit]