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Artist praised for Civil War realism

April 30, 2001

Artist praised for Civil War realism



By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Fans of artist Mort Knstler say they love his paintings because of their color and realism.

It's as if Knstler was at those Civil War scenes, he does such a good job of making them look real, said some of the people gathered to get Knstler's autograph Saturday.

The artist autographed printings, books and calendars for more than four hours at Antietam Gallery in the Martinsburg Mall on Saturday. Prints of his latest painting, "Letter From Home," were released to the public Saturday.

Gallery owner Jim Kehoe estimated about 250 people visited the gallery during Knstler's visit.

Jim Davis, 49, of Summit Point, W.Va., had Knstler sign his framed print titled "Until We Meet Again." The painting depicts Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson holding his wife's hand at Jackson's headquarters in Winchester, Va., during the winter of 1862 as Jackson prepares to go back to battle.

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"The way he caught the realistic look to it - he's truly blessed with talent," Davis said.

To make the paintings look real takes considerable research and many years of experience painting, said Knstler, 69, of Oyster Bay, N.Y.

Before painting Civil War era scenes, Knstler said he was an illustrator, doing work for the cover of magazines such as Newsweek and Boy's Life. Then he was an illustrator of movie posters, such as the one for "The Poseidon Adventure."

He began painting Western images, such as Indians hunting buffalo, but so were many other artists.

"I began to feel that I was not taking advantage of my talents," Knstler said. "I wanted to do something that no one else would do."

He began painting epic events, including the Battle of Gettysburg.

That painting, his first Civil War painting, drew a favorable reaction.

Still, Knstler didn't want to be like many other artists and focus on images of men battling with bayonets.

He wanted to try painting images his wife would enjoy - images of everyday life, street scenes and of the hardship of marching through a snowstorm, he said.

As a result, the paintings have an emotional pull, Knstler said.

"We have as many women buying my prints as men," he said.

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