Art Showcase

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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / Coming of 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.

Oklahoma Land Rush
April 22, 1889

Mort Künstler's Comments

By 1889 incessant pressure to open the Oklahoma Territory to settlement finally convinced President Benjamin Harrison to authorize a land giveaway. The first Oklahoma Land Rush occurred on April 22, 1889. At the firing of a small cannon, fifty to sixty thousand people raced into the Oklahoma Territory to plant personal stake flags on proposed town lots and quarter-section farm claims. Those who slipped past army guards before the official opening were dubbed "sooners" and were said to have "jumped the gun."

I had wanted to paint this event for some time, and when I realized 1989 was its hundredth anniversary, I started painting. The subject intrigued me because of the tremendous amount of action, but I was hesitant because of the complexity of the scene. The challenge was to give the effect of thousands of people racing on horseback in an endless sea of dust. I knew I had to show every conceivable kind of rig – buckboards, spring wagons, sulkies, and covered wagons.

I believe I captured the spirit and action of the moment, and I am proud that this painting was the catalog cover for the "Westward Ho!" exhibition of my paintings in 1989 at the Museum of Westward Expansion in Saint Louis. In 1996 the state of Oklahoma installed this painting as a large photo mural in the Oklahoma City welcome centers.


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 © 2001-2020. 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.