"Merry Christmas General Lee"

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"Merry Christmas General Lee"

by Mort Künstler

Limited Edition Print
Image Size: 18" x 28"
Overall Size: 23" x 32"
500 Limited Edition Signed and Numbered.
50 Artist Proofs Signed and Numbered.

Giclée Print on Canvas
Size: 22" x 34”
100 Limited Edition Signed and Numbered
10 Artist Proofs Signed and Numbered

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It was a passing moment of cheer amid the harsh realities of war.
On Christmas day of 1862, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, attended a holiday dinner hosted by his valued "right arm" - General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Lee and some of his officers were invited by Jackson for a Christmas meal at an outbuilding at Moss Neck, where Jackson had established winter headquarters near Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Surely it was a rare respite from the severities of warfare. Just three months earlier, Lee's army had been sorely pressed at the battle of Antietam -- and Lee's attempt to take the war to the North had been turned back in the bloodiest day of the war. And less than two weeks earlier at the battle of Fredericksburg - in one of his most decisive victories - Lee had his army overwhelmingly defeat the Army of the Potomac. So shocking were the harsh realities of war at Fredericksburg that Lee had observed: "It is well that war is so terrible; lest we grow too fond of it."
Lee left the warm environment of General Jackson's hospitality to return to his headquarters and matters of war. He passed some guests that were arriving for a holiday party at the manor house and was momentarily refreshed by the events of the day and the warm wishes of "Merry Christmas General Lee."

Mort Künstler’s Comments:
I believe "Merry Christmas General Lee" records a fascinating historical event that occurred at a special time of year and in a most attractive, memorable setting. And - it's a fitting final tribute to General Robert E. Lee at the conclusion of his 200th birthday year.
In 1862, General Stonewall Jackson made his headquarters at an outbuilding at Moss Neck Manor near Fredericksburg, Virginia. In 1995, I featured the manor house in a painting entitled Review at Moss Neck, which depicted a review of the troops by Generals Lee, Jackson, James Longstreet and J.E.B. Stuart. The manor is such a stately structure - I enjoyed painting it immensely, and have wanted to paint it again ever since.
I learned that General Jackson's stay at Moss Neck continued through the Christmas season of 1862, and while there he hosted a holiday dinner for General Lee and other officers. It was the perfect combination: a fascinating, little-known historical event that occurred at a picturesque, memorable location - Moss Neck Manor. As I made inquiries to research the event, I was invited to visit Moss Neck and tour the magnificent house. I examined every angle, and studied the historical event in detail. The Corbin family, who resided at Moss Neck, hosted a Christmas party after General Jackson's dinner. General Lee returned to his headquarters after the dinner, and I chose to paint the moment that he departed - while guests were arriving for the Christmas party at the manor house.
Focusing on that moment of the evening allowed me to paint a wonderful combination of military and civilian figures and activities. The Corbin's Virginia neighbors, dressed in their wartime best, were arriving - as General Lee and members of his staff were leaving. General Lee, of course, is the focus of the painting - along with the antebellum Old South architecture of Moss Neck Manor. I used various artistic devices to call attention to Lee as the center of interest. For instance, the carriage tracks lead toward Lee almost like an arrow. The tree branches also lead the viewer's eyes toward him. Undoubtedly someone greeted General Lee with a season's greeting that evening, which inspired the title I chose - "Merry Christmas General Lee."
The violet-blue evening sky and the frosty breath of the men and horses show the winter conditions that prevailed. It was a gala event and a heartwarming scene - one which surely provided Lee, Jackson and all present with emotional encouragement and the warmth of the season among the cold, hard realities of the Civil War.

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