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Artist Mort Künstler's latest painting 'Merry Christmas General Lee' depicts Gen. Robert E. Lee departing Moss Neck Plantation following a Christmas dinner with Gen. Jackson.
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Mort Künstler Unveils Local Print
by Michael Aubrecht, The Free Lance-Star: TOWN & COUNTY Feature
Date published: 11/3/07 Section: CIVIL WAR
Also online at: Renowned Civil War artist Mort Künstler will unveil his latest release, "Merry Christmas General Lee"

On Christmas Day 1862, two of the most celebrated names of the Confederacy came together to celebrate the birth of their Savior in the midst of the Civil War. It was on this most sacred of holidays that Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee, the supreme commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, accepted an invitation to dine with his subordinate Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson at his winter headquarters on the grounds of Moss Neck Plantation near New Post in Caroline County.

After sharing a meal at the outbuilding that had been used as Jackson's office, Gen. Lee bid his audience farewell and proceeded toward his own headquarters to attend to the details of war. While departing, the general passed a parade of guests who were arriving for a holiday party at the main house of the manor. Most likely experiencing surprise and awe, many of the guests stopped in their tracks to offer a "Merry Christmas" to the legendary rider passing them.

Such is the story behind the latest release by renowned artist Mort Künstler. Titled "Merry Christmas General Lee," this magnificent oil captures one of the more intimate events in the Fredericksburg area's Civil War history. Adding to the charm of the piece is the fact that it was almost forgotten and remained on an easel in Künstler's studio for years.

Künstler will unveil the painting and sign prints in an appearance Saturday, Nov. 10, at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, sponsored by King James Galleries of Winchester.

INTRIGUED BY MOSS NECK

In a phone interview, the painter, whose studio, Künstler Enterprises Ltd., is in Oyster Bay, N.Y., explained the story behind this project that was almost abandoned. He recalled one of his earlier pieces featuring the grand estate titled "Review at Moss Neck," which depicts a review of the troops by Gens. Lee, Jackson, Longstreet and Stuart. Künstler explained that this was the painting that had led to his fondness for the setting at Moss Neck Plantation. He described the inspiration for his newest piece.

"I have always been impressed by that plantation," he said, "and I wanted to do another painting featuring more of its stately manor. I was aware that Jackson had kept his winter quarters there during 1862, and once I was told the story of Lee and him sharing Christmas dinner together, I was intrigued."

He added: "Now, anyone who has studied either of the generals knows, neither Lee nor Jackson would have been at a 'party' during wartime. It simply wasn't in their nature. Therefore, I decided to paint a piece that showcased Lee's quiet departure, as well as the awe that he struck in those around him."

After starting with the initial concept, the painter found himself in a quandary over the natural elements in the scene's surroundings.

"Although I examined every angle of the estate and studied the historical event in detail, I wasn't exactly sure of whether there was any accumulation of snow on the ground or not," Künstler said. "I set the piece aside and did not return to it for quite some time."

Dr. James I. Robertson, a noted Civil War scholar and friend, clarified how the weather would have appeared on that wintry day in 1862. Knowing that there was snow and ice on the ground and no snow on the trees, Künstler was able to return to the canvas and complete the painting. The result was a stunning addition to his annual "Snow Print" collection.

Künstler also offered his great appreciation to local real estate agent Alex Long of Weichert Realtors, who took the artist on an extended tour of the property at Moss Neck Plantation, which is privately owned. The mansion was built in 1856 by the Corbin family.

In a recent press release, Künstler explained his skillful composition: "Focusing on that moment of the evening allowed me to paint a wonderful combination of military and civilian figures and activities. The Corbins' Virginia neighbors, dressed in their wartime best, were arriving--as General Lee and members of his staff were leaving.

"General Lee, of course, is the focus of the painting--along with the antebellum Old South architecture of Moss Neck Manor. I used various artistic devices to call attention to Lee as the center of interest. Undoubtedly, someone greeted General Lee with a season's greeting that evening, which inspired the title I chose--'Merry Christmas General Lee.'"


LEFT: Considered one of Americaís greatest historical artists, Mort Künstler has become well known for the extraordinary authenticity and drama of his work. Mr. Künstler has created paintings that educate and enrich the viewerís understanding of some of the most important events in American history. Mort Künstler is America's artist. MORE BIO HERE

Photo: Lissette Portillo


REST OF THE STORY

In an e-mail interview, Don McKenzie of King James Galleries explained his own awe over the work of Mort Künstler, saying: "This image is unique in a way because it's a continuation of a story that Mort has told in several other paintings. Several years ago Mort introduced us to the Moss Neck Plantation in the print entitled 'Review at Moss Neck.'"

He added: "In addition, Mort released a studio print entitled 'Janie Corbin and Old Jack' a couple of years ago and it shows Stonewall talking to little Janie Corbin in front of the Christmas tree inside the mansion. General Jackson grew very attached to the little girl and took it very hard when she later died of scarlet fever. Mort captured Stonewall's grief in his studio print entitled 'Divine Guidance.'"

Expressing his enthusiasm at working with Künstler, McKenzie continued: "We have had signings with other artists, but none that are so willing to listen, laugh and talk to the customers. After each signing, we have as many customers who rave about him as a person, as we do that talk about his artwork. Mort is truly the foremost Civil War artist of our time, but equally important, he is a great person."

"Merry Christmas General Lee" is a wonderful present for the holidays, as it forever preserves a gala event with emotional encouragement and the warmth of the season among the cold, harsh realities of the Civil War.

SIDEBAR:

Mort Künstler will unveil "Merry Christmas General Lee," and sign prints of his painting on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. George's Episcopal Church, Faulkner Hall, 905 Princess Anne St., Fredericksburg.

The event is sponsored by King James Galleries of Winchester. Those interested in reserving a print for the day of the signing may call the gallery at 888/217-1865.

The gallery also will have many of Künstler's older prints, framed and unframed, available for purchase on the day of the signing. To see the painting, visit Künstler's Web site at mortkunstler.com.


MICHAEL AUBRECHT is a historian from Spotsylvania County. He is currently working on his fourth book, titled "Houses of the Holy: Historic Churches of Fredericksburg." For more information, visit his Web site at pinstripepress.net.

Images courtesy of Künstler Enterprises Ltd. For more information, visit mortkünstler.com.

 

 

 


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