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Mort Kunstler, Law Killer

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Biography
MORT KUNSTLER
Mort Kunstler (b. 1927) has been painting all his life. Painting still lifes and attending art lessons during his Coney Island childhood, and then studying art at Brooklyn College, UCLA, and Pratt Institute, prepared him for his first jobs during the 1950s as a freelance illustrator for book and men’s adventure magazine publishers. Art directors of the leading men’s adventure magazines of the day sought after his illustrations. Kunstler’s captivating and sometimes provocative images adorned the covers and inside story illustrations of magazines such as Male, Stag, For Men Only, and True Adventures. Known for the extraordinary authenticity and drama of his work, Kunstler always strived for accuracy in his paintings.


“Kunstler was at the top of the game in this genre, putting incredible detail and accurate descriptions of uniforms, weapons, and settings into his paintings, even when illustrating the likes of The G.I. Who Raided Saigon Sally’s Sin Barracks.” - Men’s Adventure Magazines in Postwar America


In the 1960s Mort received jobs from more mainstream publications (The Saturday Evening Post, Field & Stream, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, and National Geographic) and from advertisers, book publishers, movie studios, and model kit manufacturers, which led to commissions, one-man exhibits, and the publication of books reproducing his paintings.
Mort completed at least three cover illustrations and two inside illustrations every month, for one publisher, Magazine Management, alone. It’s the main reason he used pen names such as Martin Kay and Emmett Kaye: the editors didn’t want it to look like one person was doing all the art. These illustrations have become emblematic of the pop culture of that era.


In 1982, a commission from CBS-TV to do a painting for the mini-series The Blue and the Gray steered Kunstler to concentrate on the Civil War and American history. His meticulously researched paintings became instantly recognized as masterpieces and established him as the country's most-collected Civil War artist. Mort became celebrated as “…the foremost Civil War artist of our time – if not of all time. To study his paintings is to simply see history alive.” — Dr. James I. Robertson Jr., the dean of Civil War historians and the author of the celebrated biography, Stonewall Jackson.


Mort is known as “the premier historical artist in America.” His prolific body of work — from his early magazine illustrations, to paintings chronicling American History from before the Europeans arrived through 21st century military experiences, and popular culture - has created a lasting appeal and a following across generations. His paintings are in the permanent collection of over 50 museums, and have been exhibited in over 60 museum one-man shows. His work has been featured in more than 20 books that have sold over 500,000 copies. Yet, Kunstler will frequently remark in interviews “I never worked a day in my life.”


Mort Kunstler lives in Oyster Bay, New York, and he is still painting.