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"High Command" by Mort Kunstler

Signed & Numbered Limited Edition Print

Image Size: 18 1/4" x 19 3/4"

Edition size: 800 S/N

Issue price: SOLD OUT FROM THE ARTIST & PUBLISHER (Only available on our secondary market--we should be able to locate it for you, if we do not already have it in stock--call us for price and availability---800-237-6077)

In Richmond, it was the season of victory. Just weeks earlier in late June, a mammoth Federal army under General George B. McClellan was poised on the outskirts of the capital -- threatening the survival of Richmond and the Confederacy. A change in command had placed General Robert E. Lee in charge of Richmond's defenses and within a week, Federal forces had been driven away.

The Capital had been saved. The dream of Southern independence remained alive. Now it was time for celebration and planning for the future. On July 13 1862, General Lee -- now heralded as the hero of the South -- arrived at the Confederate White House to confer with President Jefferson Davis. Accompanying him was General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, the savior of the Shenandoah Valley, who would soon become Lee's indispensable right arm.

At the White House the three would plan strategy for the defense of the South, now given new birth by the recent victories near Richmond. In the year ahead, Lee and Jackson would display military brilliance. Ahead lay the triumphs of Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Ahead too, lay the tragedies of Sharpsburg, of Jackson's death -- and the devastating defeat of Gettysburg. For the moment, however, Richmond was relieved, Southern hearts were full -- and the Confederate White House celebrated a glittering season of hope.

Mort's Comments

The idea for this painting came about several years ago from a conversation I had with officials of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond - Robin Reed, Executive Director, and Doug Knapp, Director of Development. The possibility of an exhibition of my paintings became a "dream come true" reality with the official opening on July 8, 2000 of my one-man show entitled, "The Confederate Spirit."

We decided to unveil an original painting at the opening of the exhibit and to simultaneously release a limited edition print of the original. Why not, I thought, set the painting at the White House of the Confederacy during the war? The White House historic site today is administered by the Museum of the Confederacy and I visited the museum several times during the development of this painting to learn more of the history of the White House.

I learned that both Lee and Stonewall Jackson visited Richmond to confer with President Davis on July 13, 1862. What an opportunity to paint the White House for the first time and include the High Command--President and Commander-in-Chief Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, Commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, and his Chief Lieutenant, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson!

After studying the White House from every conceivable angle, I chose to distance myself enough from the building to include its three floors and distinctive roof. This would help identify the building to the viewer. I finally decided that by moving to the right of the building towards the corner of East Clay and 12th Street, I could show the roof line and also show the White House as most people see it today while driving or walking down 12th Street.

By showing Jackson and Lee large and in the foreground I was able to create a strong center of interest and include almost the entire White House as a backdrop to the scene. Davis never left the building completely when the three said goodbye, but by strategically placing Davis between Jackson and Lee on the front porch; he immediately becomes noticeable to the viewer. The wall to the left of the White House hid the stable from view. The Museum of the Confederacy and an adjacent parking garage are located in this area today.

Post war photographs and an A.R. Wauld Civil War drawing showed the sizes and locations of the trees, lampposts and carriage block. There were usually waiting carriages and civilians outside.

A letter by Captain Charles Blackford tells of the fine and elegant manner in which Lee was dressed for this important meeting with the President. The uniform, boots, spurs, saddle, saddle blanket, etc. are in the collection of the museum and can be seen at the exhibit along with this painting. Stonewall Jackson is in his usual field dress at that time, cleaned up somewhat for this major conference. At the extreme left of the picture in the red kepi is Jackson's faithful aide, Captain Sandie Pendleton, who accompanied Jackson on his ride from the front.

The famed Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. of Virginia Tech has once again supplied me with much information including the weather conditions. Others helpful in my obtaining various bits of information for this painting were the museums' Associate Executive Director Douglas Harvey, Historian John Coski and Curator Robert Hancock.

The exhibition will be followed in September with a signing at the museum of my new book, also entitled, "The Confederate Spirit," a collaboration with Dr. James I. Robertson, jr. The twenty-four original paintings will remain at the museum through the end of October. It is truly one of the greatest honors I have ever received after nearly fifty years of being a professional artist.

 

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