Monday, April 6, 2015

The Making of a Masterpiece: LaGrange vs. LaGrange Phase 1

Twenty-two years ago, Mort received a letter from R. Chris Cleaveland dated May 14, 1993. Enclosed was his published article recounting one of the most fascinating stories to come out of the Civil War. Mort just couldn’t forget the story and even though he planned on ending his Civil War career with the surrender at Appomattox, he just had to do one more painting.

The following is a verbatim quote from the historical marker outside the Troup County Courthouse that tells that story:
The Nancy Harts
In 1863, a company of women soldiers was formed in LaGrange by Mrs. J. Brown Morgan. They called themselves the “Nancy Harts” in honor of Georgia’s Revolutionary War heroine. Organized to defend LaGrange in the absence of its men, the Nancy Harts held drills and target practice and became proficient at each. On April 17, 1865, a column of Union cavalry was reported to be approaching LaGrange from the west. This column, the 2nd Brig. 1st. Div., of Wilson’s cavalry corps, was commanded by Col. O. H. LaGrange, 1st Wis. Cav. On the 16th, it had crossed the Chattahoochee River at West Point (18 miles SW), captured Fort Tyler, a strong redoubt commanding the town, and destroyed the bridges, the rail facilities, 19 locomotives, 340 cars loaded with army supplies, and much valuable machinery. Early on the 17th, it had marched toward LaGrange, destroying the railroad enroute. The Nancy Harts mobilized promptly, determined to resist any attempted depredations, but they were spared a trial at arms. Seeing the charmingly militant array formed to meet him, Colonel LaGrange complimented them upon their fearless spirit and fine martial air and, after a brief delay, marched on toward Macon, leaving no scar other than the broken railroad to deface this gracious Georgia town whose name he chanced to bear.
“I left it on the back burner and eventually got involved in many other projects. I announced that I was doing my final eight paintings of the Civil War. In any case, I could not get the story of the Nancy Harts out of my mind, and I decided to do one more painting. I believe this one really does it!” – Mort Künstler

Today we begin the progression for Mort's final painting of the Civil War genre, titled LaGrange vs. LaGrange. Each day this week we'll show you the different stages involved in the creation of Mort's last Civil War masterpiece, leading up to Friday when the completed painting will be released. 

In Phase 1, you can see the rough sketches that are the very beginning of Mort's creative process. As usual, the last sketch shows the grid lines that help Mort transfer the drawing proportionately to canvas.

While cleaning up Mort’s studio, I found a business card for the Accessions Archivist for the Troup County Archives in LaGrange, Georgia. Look what was on the back – Mort’s very first sketch of LaGrange vs. LaGrange. – Jane Künstler

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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 2001-2019. 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.