Artist: Mort Kunstler Title: The New World Size: Image size: 18” x 29”
Overall size: 23 ” x 33” Edition:Artist Hand Signed and Numbered Limited Edition to 500 Medium: Fine Art Lithograph on Paper and Canvas Editions About the Art: They stand courageously on the shores of the New World. The date is May 14, 1607. They are Englishmen – 100 men and four boys -- and they have spent five months at sea. Now, finally, they stand on the solid ground of America. It is, they note, a land of “faire meadows and goodly tall trees.”
Lying at anchor behind them is the Susan Constant – the main vessel that transported them across the treacherous Atlantic. Alongside they have posted soldiers with matchlock muskets to guard against the unknown dangers of this wonderful but mysterious new land. Above them fly two flags – England’s historic Cross of St. George and the new English Union Jack. Around them lies the great American forest, and before them the challenges and the promises of the New World.
Few of them will survive. The deadly threats of the American wilderness – disease, exposure, Indian attacks and starvation – will eventually claim most of them. But a hardy few will prevail, and here, on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they will establish the first permanent English colony in North America. Their hard-won settlement will be christened “Jamestown” -- and their bold feat will launch a chain of events that will eventually give birth to the Commonwealth of Virginia – and to our American nation.
Mort Künstler’s Comments:
This is a very special painting for me because it depicts the opening scene in the historical drama that established our nation. Years ago, I discussed this idea at length with Roxane Gilmore, who – as the wife of Governor James Gilmore – was Virginia’s First Lady. She was also a professor of history at Randolph-Macon College and the chairperson of the Jamestown Commission. She had a deep interest in the landing at Jamestown and our discussion really kindled my motivation to paint this dramatic and crucially important historical event. I love painting the Civil War, and I hope to be doing it for years to come because I have so many more scenes I want to paint. But I do enjoy occasionally focusing on another era, and the 400th anniversary of Jamestown was simply irresistible.
It all came together for me as an artist one morning when I stood on-site at Jamestown and studied the lighting at the time of the landing. I suddenly saw The New World, finished, in my own mind. Karen Rehm, the chief historian at Jamestown Historic Park, and Nancy Egloff, the historian of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, were both exceedingly helpful during my research for this painting. So was Tom Davidson, the senior curator of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, and Robert Jeffrey, the Foundation’s communications specialist, who accompanied me during my on-site study of the three replica ships that made the voyage from England to Virginia.
In the painting, the Susan Constant, the main ship of the trio, is shown tied to a tree. As described in records at Jamestown, the settlers chose the landing sight because of the deep channel near shore and lashed the ship to a tree. In the background are the Discovery, on the left, and the Godspeed. The weapon held by each of the musketeers is a muzzle-loading matchlock musket -- the predecessor of the flintlock musket – which was the primary firearm in the Age of Discovery. The weapon discharged a marble-size lead ball with a powder charge that was ignited by a slow-burning wick called a “slow-match.” To fire the matchlock, the musketeer would light both ends of the match. (The second light was a spare in case the first one was accidentally extinguished.)
In the right foreground of the painting, one musketeer is blowing on the match to keep it lit. The other musketeer is resting his weapon on a musket rest because the matchlocks of the era were too heavy for most men to hold and fire. The flag flying just right of center in the picture is the English Union Jack, which was created in 1606 as a combination of two flags – England’s Cross of St. George and Scotland’s Cross of St. Andrew. The flag to the left is the Cross of St. George, which had been the national banner of England for centuries. At the time of the landing at Jamestown, English ships continued to fly both flags. Like so many other Americans, my family has been blessed to live in this country – so it’s a privilege to paint the tremendously important event depicted in The New World.
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