Künstler's talent and training were nurtured from an early age. After studying art at Brooklyn College, U.C.L.A. and Pratt Institute, Künstler became a successful illustrator in New York where he received assignments from book and magazine publishers. An important part of his training resulted from his affiliation with National Geographic Magazine. It was through their assignments of historical subject matter that he learned the value of working with historians so that accuracy was firmly imbued into his concept.
In the early 1970s, Künstler's paintings began attracting the attention of serious art collectors. At first the interest was mainly in his Western subject matter, but after a major museum retrospective exhibition and a one-man show at the prestigious Hammer Galleries in New York City, Künstler became known as an important painter of historic subjects. Since his first show in 1977, Künstler has had eleven more highly successful one-man shows at Hammer Galleries.
In 1982, a commission from CBS-TV to do a painting for the mini-series, "The Blue and the Gray" directed Künstler's interest towards the Civil War. Although the research was painstaking, he devoted much time to making sure that his painting The High Water Mark was meticulously correct. The painting was unveiled at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum on July 2, 1988 in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the battle. It is considered the most accurate and exciting painting ever done of the event. Since then, Künstler has been concentrating on Civil War subject matter.
In 1986, more than two hundred of Künstler's works were published in the book, The American Spirit - The Paintings of Mort Künstler, with text by famed historian Henry Steele Commager. An updated edition of The American Spirit was published in 1994 by Rutledge Hill Press. Images of the Civil War - The Paintings of Mort Künstler, with text by Pulitzer Prize winning author James McPherson, was published in 1992. Gettysburg - The Paintings of Mort Künstler, also with text by James McPherson was published by Turner Publishing as a companion piece to the epic feature film and mini-series Gettysburg.
A one-hour television special, entitled Images of the Civil War - The Paintings of Mort Künstler, was shown on the A&E network on April 30, 1993. It was the first television show featuring one artist's work on the Civil War.
His reputation for both accuracy and artistic mastery earned Künstler a commission from the U.S. Postal Service in 1992 to do a painting of the Buffalo Soldiers. The stamp was issued in April of 1994.
Other books featuring Künstler's art include Jackson and Lee - Legends in Gray, with text by James I. Robertson, Jr., Images of the Old West - The Paintings of Mort Künstler with text by Dee Brown, Mort Künstler's Civil War - The North and Mort Künstler's Civil War - The South, Mort Künstler's Old West - Cowboys, and Mort Künstler's Old West - Indians which were published by Rutledge Hill Press.
In 1998, the Nassau County Museum of Art in New York gave Mr. Künstler a one-man exhbition entitled The Civil War - The Paintings of Mort Künstler. More than 130 paintings, drawings, and sculptures were gathered together from around the nation. The show, which ran from January 11th to March 1, 1998, attracted more than 30,000 visitors, surpassing all previous attendance records held by a Picasso exhibit in 1997.
Governor James Gilmore officially declared March 18, 1999 Mort Künstler Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mr. Künstler and his wife, Deborah, were guests at a dinner given in Mr. Künstler's honor, at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond.
On July 7, 2000, Governor Gilmore officially opened an exhibition at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Called The Confederate Spirit - The Paintings of Mort Künstler, it was the first one-man exhibition of a contemporary artist ever held at the museum.
In September of 2000 a book by the same name was published by Rutledge Hill Press with text by famed Civil War historian James I. Robertson, Jr.
Hammer Galleries in New York City gave Mort Künstler his twelfth one-man show which opened on December 5, 2000. Richard Lynch, director of the gallery, says, "We extend our congratulations to Mort Künstler on one of his most successful exhibitions at Hammer Galleries. The Confederate Spirit marks yet another achievement in the career of America's premier historical painter."
Probably no other artist has recorded so many events in the history of America and certainly no one has done them with such extraordinary authenticity and drama as Mort Künstler.