For Us the Living (Collector's Edition): The Civil War in Paintings and Eye Witness Accounts: The Art of Mort K%C3%BCnstler

James J. Robertson Jr., foreword by Harold Holzer. Sterling, $50 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4549-0157-0
Contemporary artist Mort Künstler has made his name by developing a style of Civil War painting that combines meticulous historical accuracy with scenes of quixotic romance, brotherhood, and bravery. This "collector's edition" of his 2010 volume presents those paintings alongside an episodic narration of the war, written in prose often as breathless as Künstler's work is dramatic. The paintings focus almost entirely on the battlefield triumphs and struggles of white soldiers, with occasional glimpses of daily life, such as a contemplative, fireside Lincoln or a Confederate major briefly at home with his doe-eyed wife. For collectors and some Civil War enthusiasts, the book offers a wondrous look at the glory of a nation in difficult times: Union and Confederate soldiers approaching one another at Appomattox with respect as "[s]alute acknowledged salute. Honor answered honor". Quotes from soldiers and politicians pepper the book, heightening readers' sense of perceiving both the highs and lows of the conflict. While never untrue to historical fact, with minor details painstakingly researched, the version of the Civil War that Künstler provides dodges difficult questions of nationhood, race relations, and morality in order instead to celebrate an American spirit that he refuses to see as anything but exceptional. The volume includes a print ready for framing. (Oct)
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
Hardcover - 244 pages - 978-1-4027-7034-0
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