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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / A New Nation

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.



Washington at Carlisle - limited edition print
First Defense of the Constitution




768 Class Edition Numbered and Signed.
400 Public Edition Numbered and Signed.
50 Artist Proofs. 1068 Total Numbered and Signed.

Official Print for the 1989 Class of the U.S. Army War College.

I was thrilled when Carlisle War College officials requested me to do a painting for their graduating class of 1989. I met with the college gift committee which consisted of LTC George Spiczak, LTC Robert Edwards, LTC Richard Gerding, LTC Red Natkin, Colonel Larry Gillespie Sr., and two historians from the Military History Institute, LTC Martin Andresen and Major Rick Eiserman. After some discussion, a most appropriate subject was chosen - President, and General, George Washington entering Carlisle. The scene depicts General Washington and his entourage entering the town on October 4, 1794, where upon he took command of the troops there in order to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. At that time, Carlisle was a frontier town with an army post, and it was the first time in American history where the U.S. Army was used to enforce the new Constitution.

In composing this picture, I created a wedge-shaped form of subjects, leading to the center of interest which is naturally Washington. He leads the group on horseback, silhouetted against the sky with his hat off in salute to his officers. Present with the President and Commander in Chief of the Army were more than twelve other generals, several of whom can be seen close behind Washington. The man on the far left is General "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, commander of the Virginia troops and father of Robert E. Lee. To his immediate right is Alexander Hamilton, also a general and then Secretary of the Treasury. He was the man whose idea it was to put the whiskey tax into effect. Beyond General Washington's raised arm is General William Irvine, the commander of Carlisle Barracks. To Washington's right is the first Secretary of War, Henry Knox. The officer on the far right is General Thomas Mifflin, Pennsylvania governor and general of the Pennsylvania troops here at Carlisle.

I've attempted to show the various units of the army that were present at Carlisle. In the foreground, beginning at the left, are the musicians. The drummers particularly stand out in their reverse-color scheme uniforms: red jackets with blue turnback lapels and collars. (The regular army uniform was a blue coat with red turnbacks.) Further over are mounted artillery officers, and in front of the artillery piece is an officer with a spontoon which designates his rank. To the right are regular army "Light Infantry", in uniforms of the "Legion of the U.S. Army." These soldiers are of the second sub-legion, indicated by the red bindings and red plumes with white on their caps.

Looking at the line of troops, the militia stands to the right. The first soldier in line wears a tri-corner hat and his old uniform, left over from his service during the Revolutionary War. His spontoon designates his charge over the group about him. Further down the line of troops, the militiamen are wearing typical uniforms of that period, hunting jackets, knit caps, and broad brimmed hats. Near the end of the line is a group of cavalry.

The flags are based on existing originals and contemporary drawings. From left to right are depicted the common flags of the army at the time. First is the famous Schuyler flag with the eagle in the field of blue, based on the flag that descended from General Phillip Schuyler. Next is the flag of the Philadelphia Lighthorse troops, based on an existing original. The next flag with a blue field, is the National Standard of the First Regiment of the United States Army. The "Betsy Ross" flag with the stars and the circle is familiar to us all and was one of several versions of the American flag. Congress passed a law that the official flag should have thirteen stripes and a field of blue with thirteen stars, but the law did not designate that the stripes should be red and white, nor how many points each star should have, nor how the stars should be placed. Thus, as you view down the line of colors, you'll see a variety of flags with different colored stripes and also star variations. To Washington's immediate right is his headquarters flag of blue with six pointed stars. This flag still survives. To his left is a flag based on a very popular pattern that was symmetrical as far as the stars were concerned, and were very easy for a seamstress to sew, not necessitating the expertise of a flag painter.

To the far right is a group of Carlisle civilians who have come out to see this military parade of arms and the important dignitaries. According to contemporary accounts, they were respectfully silent as they watched the armed formation and saluting of the officers. Many of them were sympathetic to insurgents, and not happy at seeing the army massed to put down the rebellion.

Washington at Carlisle is certainly one of the most difficult and challenging paintings I've ever worked on. I thoroughly enjoyed the research and composition, and I believe it to be, by far, the most successful revolutionary era painting that I've ever done!



Image Size: Image Size: 16 5/8" x 29". Overall Size: 21 1/8" x 33".

 

 
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.