Monday, August 17, 2009

Mort Künstler by Stephen Doherty 7

Künstler found an unusual way of using his artistic talent to support his boyhood interest in baseball. He enjoys telling this story, about what he jokingly refers to as his first professional job: “I was a rabid Brooklyn Dodger fan and used to see the games for free using the Knot Hole Gang admission tickets given out to kids. Everyone got a card entitling him to see six or seven games during the season, with the color of the card indicating the specific set of games. My friends and I all had different colored cards, which meant that we couldn’t all go to the same games together. It finally occurred to me that I could paint the cards to match each other so that we not only could go to the games together, but we could get into several sets of games. So I started a little business making counterfeit Knot Hole Gang cards with my watercolors. As I recall, I would charge a penny or a nickel to make a card. It was quite a thriving business, although once I did get caught and was thrown out of Ebbets Field. I kept trying to go back in by hiding my face and flashing my card, but the ticket-taker always recognized me. Finally, he gave up in disgust and let me in to see the game.”
Forty years later, this story still brought smiles when Künstler had occasion to meet several members of the counterfeiting department of the Secret Service. The government made a print of one of his paintings depicting the Nazis counterfeiting American currency. The head of the counterfeiting division, Joseph Coppola, invited him down to Washington for a tour of their offices and to receive an award from the Secret Service. At lunch, Künstler started telling the agents the story of how he began his art career as a counterfeiter. He saw faces blanch until he used the term “Knot Hole Gang” and one by one, the men relaxed and started laughing at his
early “caper.”

The Brooklyn Dodgers, 1942 (Autographed by the actual players that year)

Original story illustration for "Hot Money for the Cold War," Argosy, August 1957

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy Mr. Kunstler's works and the stories of why he painted the scene in a certain way as well as the history behind the work. I start each morning on the internet with a check of his website to see what happened on the particular day during the Civil War as well as this day in history in the sidebar. His work brings those times to life for me. Having met him too made my Christmas a couple of years ago and well worth driving four hours to meet him. Lee Hillman-Hazard, Ky.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Knstler, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright 2001-2011. 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.