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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.

Touchdown of Space Shuttle Columbia
14 April 1981, 10:20:53 PST, Edwards AFB, California

About this Painting
In 1979 Mort Kunstler was commissioned to paint NASA's initial space shuttle Columbia by Rockwell International, the prime contractor for the project. 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. From 2014 through 2016 two of the paintings, "The Launch" and "Touchdown" were part of the traveling exhibit Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure curated by the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Mort Künstler's Comments
It seems that people who witness their first shuttle launch have one of two reactions: either they look aghast and say ‘Oh my God!’ or they cry. At the touchdown, everyone cheered. We had to wait for four hours in the desert heat at Edwards Air Force Base, but hearing astronauts Bob Crippen and John Young describe what it was like ‘up there’ made it all worthwhile.

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: 1981

Medium: Oil on canvas

Image Size: 40" x 54"


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.