Künstler Unveils 2008 Snow Print
Künstler's latest painting 'My
Friend, the Enemy' depicts Civil War
soldiers from opposite sides sharing their
meager supplies. The scene is downriver
from Fredericksburg. ORDER HERE|
by Michael Aubrecht, The Free
Lance-Star: TOWN & COUNTY Feature
Date published: 11/8/08 Section: CIVIL WAR
Also online at: Human Decency During
Perhaps the most adverse
consequence of any civil war is the division of a
population that was once united. Citizens who are
born and bred under the same flag, who share the
same history and worship the same god, find
themselves unable to resolve a political dispute.
Debate turns to argument, and the two sides end up
destroying each other in the name of their causes.
This tragedy of "brother versus brother" was
repeatedly played out on battlefields all across
America from 1861 to 1865.
when we examine the conflict today, we tend to
focus completely on the differences between the
Union and Confederate soldiers instead of their
commonalities. It's far too easy for us to forget
that they were all once part of the same sovereign
Throughout the War Between the
States, troops from both sides of the Mason-Dixon
line routinely laid down their arms to trade
supplies and conversed with the "enemy." Here in
Fredericksburg, there are several accounts of weary
pickets on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River
participating in these temporary truces.
Incidents like these were not at
all about military diplomacy. They were about
finding a common ground and practicing human
decency amid the madness of war. Trading allowed
enemies to come together, in peace, between
episodes of killing.
benefits were mutual. Federal troops always had an
abundance of coffee and sugar, while Confederate
soldiers had a surplus of Southern tobacco.
Newspapers were especially popular to exchange, as
it was interesting to read the war news from the
This sentiment is the backdrop for
renowned Civil War artist Mort Künstler's
newest snow print, "My Friend, the Enemy." This
painting was inspired by a poignant scene in the
film "Gods and Generals" and captures Billy Yank
and Johnny Reb sharing their meager supplies
downriver from the town of Fredericksburg.
painting depicts two soldiers, one Northern and one
Southern, enjoying each other's coffee and tobacco
as if the war had stopped, if only for a moment.
The skyline of Fredericksburg provides a dramatic
backdrop, and the courthouse and church spires are
clearly identifiable. Other troops stand among the
snow-covered trees in the background, and two
subtly rendered soldiers are using a rope to move a
hollowed-out log across the river.
usual, Künstler's composition is remarkable
and his brilliant use of line and light draws the
viewer's eye around the canvas. The perspective is
looking west, just as the battered silhouette of
Fredericksburg is being swallowed up by a brilliant
a telephone interview, the artist explained the
mind-set behind his creation of this contemplative
scene. Künstler said: "I have wanted to do a
piece that simply focused on the common soldier for
a while. I look at myself like a baseball pitcher.
When you expect a fastball, they throw you a curve.
I had just completed several day scenes that
featured prominent military officers in action, and
wanted to paint something different."
added: "This piece was a complete departure from
those themes. Here I chose to use a sunset, with
subtle movement, and feature 'regular Joes.'"
studio, Künstler Enterprises Ltd., is in
Oyster Bay, N.Y., and he has painted more than
5,000 images throughout his career. Prints of his
work are priced from $225 to $3,200, and original
paintings command as much as $100,000. This newest
painting, like all of his work, required
considerable research in order to produce an
this pictorial study, the painter traveled to areas
on the Rappahannock River that were shallow and
fordable. He consulted maps as well as photographs
of the city's original buildings and bridge
columns. The weather is also an essential
ingredient in these scenes, and he noted the
placement of the sun to enhance the accurate
Künstler explained the
process. "I always try to visit the exact location,
whenever possible," he said. "I do my best to
schedule these trips during the same season, and
time of the day or night. That way I can see what
the sky, trees and lighting was like."
Originality is also a major factor
in Künstler's work, and he has been applauded
over the years for tackling rarely portrayed
subject matter and integrating extremely complex
imagery. These include horse-drawn artillery
caissons, steam locomotive engines and Victorian
streetscapes that appear to leap from the
"Originality is something that
every artist wants to achieve," Künstler said.
"Every one of us has an ego to some degree, and I
feed it by doing things that no one else has done
before." He joked, "When you paint something that
no one else has done, it's the best."
This newest piece by Künstler
captures a quiet moment that stands in stark
contrast to the usual Civil War paintings of
Fredericksburg that dominate other period artists'
work. Most depict either the disastrous Federal
charge at the stone wall, or the ransacking of the
Local collectors and fans who are
familiar with the Künstler catalog may liken
this release to another tender moment that the
artist chose to capture in his "Angel of Marye's
Heights," which depicts Sgt. Richard Rowland
Kirkland giving water to the wounded enemy.
"These kinds of scenes are really
special for me to paint," said Künstler, "as
they bring the little guy to the forefront. I do
enjoy painting the larger-than-life generals and
presidents, but it's the regular everyday soldier
that is often forgotten."
added: "The most touching stories from the war are
always about the little guys on both sides. I tried
to capture their mutual suffering and respect in
Fredericksburg has always been a
favorite backdrop for Künstler, who has
painted more than 12 pieces featuring the area. "I
absolutely love the town," he confessed. "Every
time that I visit, the people are always wonderful,
and the rich history that surrounds the city
provides all the inspiration a painter could ever
artist will be in Fredericksburg to unveil "My
Friend, the Enemy" and sign prints of his painting
on Saturday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at VFW
Post 3103 at 2701 Princess Anne St.
Sponsor Don McKenzie of
Galleries said in an e-mail:
"We anticipate that much of our inventory of 'My
Friend, the Enemy' will sell out prior to the
signing. We are recommending that people call and
pre-order now. We will then bring the orders to the
event for the customers."
Additional Mort Künstler
prints, framed and unframed, also will be
available. Those interested in reserving a print
for the day of the signing may call the gallery at
Künstler made a point, in
closing, to acknowledge his own excitement about
the print and the signing. "I have wanted to paint
this scene for a very long time, and now that I
have, I am so very thankful that it has been
received with such enthusiasm. I can't wait to
share it with everyone."
WHAT: Mort Künstler print
signing for "My Friend, the Enemy"
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
WHERE: VFW Post 3103, 2701 Princess Anne St.,
INFORMATION: King James Galleries,
MICHAEL AUBRECHT is a historian
from Spotsylvania County. Visit his Web site at
Images courtesy of Künstler Enterprises Ltd.
For more information, visit mortkünstler.com.