It will be the first time in the museum's more-than-two-decade history that it has ever held three one-person shows for any artist. And for Künstler, it will be his first exhibition that will show not only his paintings but the entire creative process.
"People love Mort Künstler and his work," says Constance Schwartz, the museum's director emeritus and curator for the exhibit. "For Us the Living - Civil War Paintings by Mort Künstler," she says, "will show the viewers Mort's creative process, which is so exciting to see: from the idea - a little scribbled sketch - to a more finished sketch, doing even more finished sketches into the final painting. Showing that aspect along with the props that go into the making of the painting is a terrific opportunity." The process also can be seen at MortKunstler.com.
A MUSEUM DRAW
The exhibit could be a terrific opportunity for the museum, too. It hasn't forgotten that its first show featuring Künstler's Civil War art in 1998 attracted 40,000 visitors - setting a museum record. His second show in 2006 featuring a range of American historical images wasn't as big a draw.
The new show has more than 50 paintings, with a few from the earlier shows. His interest in the Civil War began in 1988, when he was inspired to do a painting for the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Since then, he's painted more than 300 Civil War images.
Künstler began his career as an illustrator doing covers for True, Argosy and other men's adventure magazines and then illustrations for National Geographic and posters for films, including "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three."
Now he primarily paints the Civil War. "If I'm doing large, complicated oils, I can probably do six a year," he says. "Sometimes I have 20 sketches and sometimes I hit it on the first one." The final sketch is done full sized on tracing paper divided by grids so it can be transferred to the canvas for the painting. A companion book, "For Us the Living: The Civil War in Paintings and Eye Witness Accounts - The Art of Mort Künstler," is being published by Sterling. "I love painting narrative pictures, and there was so much of the Civil War that had never been painted before," Künstler says.
WHAT "For Us the Living - Civil War Paintings by Mort Künstler"
INFO The museum will offer several public programs to complement the exhibition, including a re-enactment of a Civil War skirmish and a book signing and a talk by the artist; $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 62 and older and $4 for students and children 4 to 12; 516-484-9337, nassaumuseum.org