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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / The Civil War

Here you will find a pictorial chronicle of the drama and excitement of American History. These paintings give the viewer an insight into the tumultuous life of this young nation that mere words cannot achieve.



Last Rally, The - limited edition print
Sayler's Creek, Virginia April 6, 1865


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Paper Artist's Proof - $625.00

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LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

Paper Prints
Reproduction technique: Fine offset lithography on neutral pH archival quality paper using the finest fade-resistant inks.
Each print is numbered and signed by the artist and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.


Paper Signed and Numbered
Image Size: 18” x 28” • Overall Size: 22” x 31” • Edition Size: 1000
Paper Artist’s Proof
Image Size: 18” x 28” • Overall Size: 22” x 31” • Edition Size: 50 • Availability: Available



Historical Information

The Appomattox Campaign was in its fifth day, and Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was caught in a footrace toward Farmville, Virginia. Close behind were two Union armies, whose cavalry cut and slashed at Lee's flanks. Hungry and worn, Lee's infantry plodded along muddy roads behind the wagon trains. Hardened veterans of so many campaigns dropped by the road side, so exhausted that they could go no further. The butternut columns moved on, separating into three large groups near Sayler's Creek.

General Ewell's column, including the commands of Pickett and Anderson, headed to the southern crossing of Little Sayler's creek with the Union's Sixth Corps close behind. Federal cavalry pounced upon Ewell's wagons leading the march, and nearly one-third of Lee's army was trapped in a large vice! After a brief, yet desperate struggle, the Confederates were overrun. Most threw down their arms and surrendered, while others ran for their lives.

Further to the west, a concerned Lee waited at Rice's Station and listened to the ominous booming of artillery. Anxious for his trains, he ordered General Mahone's Division to retrace their steps towards Sayler's Creek, and together, the two rode to a nearby hillside. The sight which met the great commander was enough to break even the strongest of hearts.

Only a short distance from the scene of Ewell's disaster, Lee looked down upon mud-spattered refugees filling the road and muddy fields. General Mahone remembered:

"The scene beggars description - hurrying teamsters with their teams and dangling traces, retreating infantry without guns, many without hats, a harmless mob...At this spectacle General Lee straightened himself in the saddle and looking more the soldier than ever, exclaimed as if talking to himself: 'My God! Has the army been dissolved?"

Ordering the wiry Mahone to form a battleline, Lee rode toward his panick-stricken soldiers. Douglas Southall Freeman described the scene:

"Lee spurred forward to rally the men who were running toward him. Either from the ground where the bearer had dropped it in his flight, or else from the hand of some color-bearer, Lee took a battle flag and held it aloft. There on Traveller he sat, the red folds of the bunting flapping about him, the soldiers in a mob in front of him, some wild with fear, some exhausted, some wounded A few rushed on; others looked up and, recognizing him, began to flock around him as if to find shelter in his calm presence. Did it flash over him then that this was the last rally of the great Army of Northern Virginia?"
There in the gathering dusk, Lee knew that the end was not far off; not just for his army, but for the Confederacy as well.




Mort Künstler’s Comments:

After reading the four volumes of Robert E. Lee's biography by Douglas Southall Freeman, I was captured by the incident at Sayler's Creek during the last days of the war. It was the only time during the four years of fighting that Lee actually picked up a battle flag and rallied troops around him to prevent the complete rout of the army. It was a scene I had to paint.

I wanted the viewer to capture the essence of the painting immediately. By placing Lee facing to the left and the army retreating to the right, the opposing elements of the painting were set to tell the story. By taking my viewpoint, I was able to have the viewer looking southwest where the sun was setting. This gave me the chance to position Lee in front of the sun, creating a bright spot around him, which instantly draws the viewer to the center of interest. It also gave me the chance to paint a dramatic sunset sky since it had rained earlier.

The soldiers are recognizing Lee and swinging around to see the great man up close. One reaches out to touch his horse, as they often did when he was near. The poses are created by my putting myself into each person and thinking what he might be thinking, doing and saying.

The dead limbs of the trees are put in to add to the atmosphere of death and destruction, as well as to act as pointers to the center of interest, General Lee. The mud and dirt, and the discarded accoutrements add to the feeling of despair.

I tried to capture this moment of a great man, who by shear willpower and determination, stopped an army that had become nothing more than a retreating mob. I will be more than satisfied if some of this emotion has been passed on to the viewer.


 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2017. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.