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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / The Space Age

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.

Test Firing of the Main Engine
12 July 1980, National Space Technology Laboratories, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

About this Painting
In 1979 Mort Kunstler was selected to be the official Space Shuttle Artist by its prime contractor, Rockwell International. He was commissioned to paint NASA's initial space shuttle Columbia, from design to launch. For nearly two years Mort received privileged access to Rockwell's facilities and development teams. He witnessed a rocket test, the launch, touchdown, and came to know Astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen. The seven original paintings and 21 sketches were unveiled in 1981 at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' An American Adventure exhibit. The exhibit travelled to other Rockwell plant cities, and other exhibits followed. This painting was on exhibit at the Tellus Science Museum, in Cartersville, GA, from 2011-2016.

Mort Künstler's Comments
Mort did on-site research and was present when the main engine was tested. He recalls, “It is blistering hot in Mississippi in the middle of July, and when the engine fired I thought that if the heat did not get me, the sound would. The noise was almost deafening, even though I was standing several miles away.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts opened a major retrospective exhibit of Künstler’s art in November 2014, including many of his Men’s Adventure art. Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure, had over 80 pieces from early childhood through his most recent works. This traveling exhibit went to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia, the Citadelle Art Foundation in Canadian, Texas, and the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York.

Date Created: 1980

Medium: Oil on canvas

Image Size: 40" x 30"


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 © 2001-2022. 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.