Mort Künstler’s exhibition at The Hecksher Museum of Art

Mort Kunstler is best known for his incomparable paintings of Civil War events. However, he earned his stripes as an illustrator for pulp fiction magazines with his illustrations for men’s pulp adventure magazines published in the 50s, 60s and 70s. For the first time, more than 80 of Mort Künstler’s remarkable original artworks, some shown in magazines and books but many of them never published before, are exhibited together in The Hecksher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington, NY. The exhibition titled “Mort Künstler: The Godfather of Pulp Fiction Illustrators” are now on view until Nov. 17, 2019.

To see and hear more about the exhibition in Mort Künstler’s own words, click here for the YouTube video preview

Mort Kunstler Video.png

 

A press release from his office says:

Long before blockbuster superhero movies, those looking for an adrenaline rush turned to adventure magazines featuring exciting stories and thrilling illustrations. As the go-to-artist and illustrator, Mort Künstler’s work graced hundreds of magazine covers, stories, and books, firmly establishing his prominence in the pulp fiction genre.

Originally featured in magazines such as Stag, Male, and For Men Only in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, the illustrations brought to life headlines that screamed adventure. The images of men in combat, women in distress, and nature threatening man immediately caught the reader’s attention. “You try to pick a moment that will entice the reader and catch their attention and make them want to read the whole text,” explains Künstler. “The whole goal is to make them stop and go, ‘what’s going on here?'”

 

Mort Kunstler 2

Jet-Sled Raid on Russia’s Ice Cap Pleasure Stockade

Kunstler was so good, that there were instances when his carefully detailed illustrations actually inspired a story, rather than the other way around. During his long career, Kunstler illustrated stories for many authors, including Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, who wrote in the same magazines under the pen name of Mario Cleri. Kunstler illustrated Puzo’s The Godfather long before the movie franchise. His vision came amazingly close to how the characters eventually appeared in the movies. 

Mort Kunstler 3

The word Künstler means artist in German. His father kept the original spelling, with the umlaut over the u. His father was an amateur artist himself and at the age of 2 ½, his parents knew Mort was an artist. By age 12, he was painting murals at his grade school PS 215 in Brooklyn. After high school, his main focus was not art. He was a good athlete and sport dominated his life at Brooklyn College. He played basketball, football, a diver on the swimming team and hurdler on the track team. After three years at Brooklyn college, he transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles on basketball scholarship. But came back home after one semester because his father got sick. Mort went on to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He graduated from Pratt after seven years of college with a Certificate in Illustration but never earned a college degree. Between commissioned painting, movie posters, magazine and book covers, Mort has never been out of work. Now at the age of 92 he is still painting.

Mort works in oils, but his favorite medium for illustrating is Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache. Back in the 60s and 70s, Mort was averaging 3 magazine covers a month, along with other illustrations that went inside each magazine. Mort also illustrated for Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Readers Digest, National Geographic, and Mad magazine. Mort also did movie posters for The Poseidon Adventure and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. His career spans over 70 years with about 5,000 paintings to his credit.

The Heckscher Museum is producing a catalogue to accompany Mort Künstler: “The Godfather” of Pulp Fiction Illustrators, and publication of a companion book on Mort’s men’s adventure art will be released during the exhibit. A traveling exhibition is being organized as well. Artist appearances and signings to be announced.

Since I’m out of town and cannot possibly go see the exhibition, I purchased the companion book which arrived the other day. What a wonderful book with pages of bright photos in vibrant colors!

For more information, visit The Hecksher Museum of Art website or Contact Kunstler Enterprises, Ltd., 800-850-1776, email at info@mortkunstler.com, or visit their website: www.mkunstler.com.

 

 

Captain Kidd and his Buried Treasure

Capt. William Kidd

 

William Kidd, also known as Captain Kidd was born c. 1645, at Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland and died on May 23, 1701 in London. He was a 17th century British privateer and semi-legendary pirate who became celebrated in English literature as one of the most colorful outlaws of the time. Fortune seekers have hunted his buried treasure in vain throughout succeeding centuries.

It is believed Kidd went to sea as a youth. After 1689 he was sailing as a legitimate privateer for Great Britain against the French in the West Indies and off the coast of North America. In 1690 he was an established sea captain and shipowner in New York City where he owned property at various times. He was hired by Lord Bellomont, who was then governor of New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire to rid the coast of enemy privateers.

In London in 1695, mainly on the recommendation of the prominent New Yorker, Robert Livingston, Captain William Kidd received a royal commission from the British King, William III, to apprehend pirates who molested the ships of the East India Company in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean. Kidd’s ship, the “Adventure Galley,” was fitted out at the expense of several notable Englishmen, including Richard Coote, earl of Bellomont.

Kidd sailed from Deptford on Feb. 27, 1696, called at Plymouth, and arrived at New York City on July 4 to take on more men. Avoiding the normal pirate haunts, he arrived by February 1697 at the Comoro Islands of East Africa. It was apparently some time after his arrival here that Kidd, still without having taken a prize ship, decided to turn to piracy. Under the term of a privateer’s contract, no pay for captain or crew was provided unless prizes were taken.

In August 1697 he made an unsuccessful attack on ships sailing with Mocha coffee from Yemen but later took several small ships. His refusal two months later to attack a Dutch ship nearly brought his crew to mutiny, and in an angry exchange Kidd mortally wounded his gunner, William Moore.

Kidd took his most valuable prize, the Armenian ship “Quedagh Merchant,” in January 1698 and scuttled his own unseaworthy “Adventure Galley.” When he reached Anguilla, in the West Indies in April 1699, he learned that he had been denounced as a pirate. He left the “Quedagh Merchant,” at the island of Hispaniola where the ship was possibly scuttled. In any case, it disappeared with its questionable booty and he sailed to New York City in a newly purchased ship, the “Antonio” where he tried to persuade Bellomont of his innocence.

In an attempt to avoid his mutinous crew, who had gathered in New York, Kidd sailed 120 miles around the eastern tip of Long Island, and then doubled back 90 miles along the Sound to Oyster Bay. He felt this was a safer passage than the high-trafficked narrows between Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Kidd arrived in Oyster Bay on June 9, 1699, and anchored offshore. Justice White and Doctor Cooper helped to transmit a message to Kidd’s wife in New York, without exposing Kidd and his location. This secrecy was in vain, however, for his location in Oyster Bay was revealed, and just over a month later he was imprisoned in Boston before Bellomont shipped him back to England for trial.

On May 8 and 9, 1701, he was found guilty of the murder of Moore and on five indictments of piracy. Important evidence concerning two of the piracy cases was suppressed at the trial, and some observers later questioned whether the evidence was sufficient for a guilty verdict.

Although Richard Coote, the Earl of Bellomont, had been instrumental in securing Kidd’s commission as a privateer he later turned against Kidd and other pirates, writing that the inhabitants of Long Island were “a lawless and unruly people” protecting pirates who had “settled among them.”

Kidd was hanged at Execution Dock, in Wapping, London on May 23, 1701 where his body was placed in a cage and left to rot for all to see along the River Thames and to serve as a warning against other pirates. Actually, he was hanged two times. On the first attempt, the hangman’s rope broke and Kidd survived. Although some in the crowd called for Kidd’s release, claiming the breaking of the rope was a sign from God, Kidd was hanged again minutes later, this time successfully.

Some of his treasure of gold and gems which he buried on the island was recovered from Gardiners Island at a spot now marked by a bronze plaque. John Gardiner, Lion Gardiner’s grandson, cooperated with the British in surrendering the booty, which some accounts placed at 20,000 pounds sterling, which would be worth millions of dollars in the late 20th century.

Pirate Captain William Kidd’s ship, the Adventure Galley, was anchored off Treadwells Neck in the 1690s, according to reports at the time. Proceeds from his effects and goods taken from the “Antonio” were donated to charity.

In years that followed, the name of Captain Kidd has become inseparable from the romanticized concept of the swashbuckling pirate of Western fiction. Some old maps indicate a point marked as Kidd’s Money Hole. But rumors that some of Kidd’s treasure remains buried on the beach at Fort Salonga have never been substantiated.

 

Sources:

Britannica

Long Island, People and Places, Past and Present

Hometown Long Island by Newsday

 

 

Knollwood: The Estate and Its Owners

 

Knollwood 1

Knollwood with Garden Facade

“Knollwood”, one of architects ‘Hiss & Weekes’ most beautiful country-house commissions, was owned by a number of interesting personalities. It was built between 1906 and 1910 for Charles I. Hudson, a New York City stockbroker of the Gilded Age, at Muttontown on Long Island’s North Shore. The 60-room mansion had elements of Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance and Spanish styling with towering Ionic front columns with terraced garden and a dairy farm to satisfy his passion for raising Jersey cattle.

The house was palatially scaled and elegantly faced with smooth-dressed Indiana limestone, with design details borrowed from a variety of sources, including palaces and country estates by Palladio and Vignola built for Italian princes, and royal residences erected in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Inside, the house contained 30 rooms with paneling imported from England and marble fireplaces brought from Italy, as well as coffered Renaissance-style ceilings, much in evidence in the first-floor reception rooms.

Knollwood 2

Knollwood’s Interior

Viewed from the north, the most striking feature of “Knollwood” was its colossal entrance portico, balustraded across the top like the main block of the house and supported by four giant Ionic columns. In most other aspects, the north and south elevations were similar. At the ends of the two-and-a-half story main block of the house were single-story wings containing Palladian-style motifs such as arched French doors flanked by lower rectangular openings. Each of the wings, in turn, opened onto a deep loggia.

Knollwood 4

View from the North with Main Entrance Portico

Viewed from the south, the houses appeared to rest on a high basement, extending forward beneath the wide terrace at the back which overlooked the formal gardens. The terrace was reached from the gardens by grand staircases.

Knollwood 3

Landscape Design by Vitale & Geiffert

The formal gardens to the south of the house incorporated historical European precedents as well, especially in the grand scale and pronounced axiality. The landscape architect was Ferrucio Vitale. Like the great country houses of the British Isles and the villas of Northern Italy, the 150-acre estate devoted a large part of its land to commercial farming and pasturing. A stuccoed combination stable and garage building included space for 12 cars and apartments for chauffeurs, grooms, and gardeners. A poultry building and a hog house were also located on the estate, as well as an additional stable that housed farm horses, wagons, and implements. Accommodations included a boarding house for farm laborers, a cottage for the farm superintendent, and an additional cottage for agricultural workers. The presence in this farming complex of a large dairy barn for 140 head of cattle was not surprising in view of the fact that Charles Hudson took a lifelong interest in the breeding of fine Jersey cattle. A white-shingled guest cottage on the estate, designed in the Colonial Revival style, came with its own garage and stables.

Charles I. Hudson was successful and well-respected. He was elected to two terms as governor of the New York Stock Exchange. His tenure as head of C.I. Hudson & Company was not without its difficulties; the company was once sued by the brother of John D. Rockefeller and Hudson himself had his exchange seat suspended for a month following the assault of an exchange telephone operator.

Following Hudson’s death in 1921, Knollwood was sold to Gustavia Senff, widow of Charles H. Senff, director of the American Sugar Refining Company (later Domino Sugar). Mrs. Senff continued the philanthropy of her late husband, donating land in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills for Mount Tom State Park and erecting Senff Gate at the University of Virginia (she was a native Virginian).

Charles Senff McVeigh, an attorney and co-founder of the New York law firm of Morris and McVeigh, inherited Knollwood as trustee following the death of his aunt in 1927. Besides his law practice and philanthropic causes, McVeigh was an avid sportsman. He helped to establish the American Wildlife Institute which, in part, aired radio programs about land and wildlife conservation. McVeigh sold Knollwood to King Gustav S. Zog of Albania in 1951 for approximately $102.800.

Zog bought the estate to establish a kingdom-in-exile for himself, his family and 120 members of his royal entourage staffed by Albanian subjects. But the fact is that Zog never set foot on the estate and caused disdain among his Long Island neighbors by refusing to pay property taxes. Legend has it that the king bought the estate for a “bucket of diamonds and rubies” and Zog’s riches were hidden in the mansion. Vandals ravaged walls in the mansion searching for gems hidden by King Zog. The mansion fell into total ruin.

The estate’s final owner, Lansdell Christie, had a hand in many enterprises before World War II. Christie attended West Point and began his own marine transportation business. As a transportation office in North Africa during the war, he learned about extensive iron ore deposits in Liberia. Following the war, he made a fortune mining iron ore by securing concessions to mine ore in the region, seeing to it that Liberia benefited from the development as well. Progressive in terms of racial views, he befriended Liberia’s president William Tubman and helped to found the Afro-American Institute. Christie was also involved in Democratic politics. He was the largest single Democratic donor for the 1956 Stevenson campaign and a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.

By the time Lansdell Christie purchased Knollwood in 1955 from Zog’s parliament, the estate had suffered from years of neglect and vandalism. The terraced gardens were overgrown; the farm buildings were in disrepair. The local county works department of Oyster Bay pulled down the ruins of the home in 1959 for safety reasons. A garden pavillon remained for many years, progressively vandalized, until it was razed to its foundation, also for safety reasons. The most visible remains at the present time are the remnants of a double staircase to the old formal gardens, where traces of landscaping remain; some walkways disappearing under fallen litter and leaves, some columns, and the gate structure at the old entrance to the grounds. Seeing these remnants of this once magnificent mansions will certainly pique a hiker’s interest in the people who once lived there.

King Gustav S. Zog of the Albanians gets way too much credit and press for having owned the Knollwood Estate, the ruins of which are now part of the Muttontown Preserve in East Norwich with the gated entrance located on Jericho-Oyster Bay Road on Route 106.

All photos are from L.I. Country Houses and Their Architects, 1860-1940.

 

References:

Newsday Home Town

Wikipedia

The Freeholder, quarterly newsletter of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, Winter 2009

Long Island Country Houses and their Architects, 1860-1940

 

 

Farewell Clarence Michalis, the Longest Serving Mayor in NY State history

Clarence Michalis

Lattingtown Mayor Clarence Michalis in front of the village office sign. (April 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Clarence Fahnestock Michalis of Locust Valley, the former Mayor of tony Lattingtown, died on March 30th. Clarence Michalis was 96 years old. Born in 1922 to Clarence G and Helen C. Michalis, he lived in New York City and Garrison, NY. He graduated from Buckley School, St. Paul’s School and Harvard College and then entered the U.S. Navy where he spent the next three years as a lieutenant and navigator on the U.S.S. Hall in the Pacific. He worked at First National City Bank, and was CFO of Bristol-Myers Co., former chairman of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Cooper Union and Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.  

He was the longest-serving mayor in New York State history and emerged victorious in the last Village election in June 2013. At that time Clarence was 91, and had held the office for 44 years. He defeated Nicholas DellaFera, the 23-year-old challenger on June 18th, 2013, winning handily (376-87), and inspiring the largest voter turnout in 4 decades. Of the election Michalis noted, “It was a simple case of age and experience trumping youthful zeal.”

As a dedicated civic leader, he was mayor of the Village of Lattingtown for 48 years, past president and trustee of the Nassau County Museum of Art, active member and former president of Piping Rock Club, former commissioner of the Locust Valley Fire District, commodore of Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, trustee of the North Shore Land Alliance and member of the Union Club, New York Yacht Club and Holland Lodge. 

In his last years as Mayor, when most 90+ would be slowing down, Clarence still had his fingers on the pulse of the area. It was Clarence who first cautioned Loriann Cody about the possible closing of the Rottkamp Farm in Glen Head (the problem has fortunately been resolved and Rottkamp remains open.)

When his failing health forced him to step down as Mayor in early 2017, he maintained his sense of humor saying, “I used to see many politicians, now I see many doctors.”

Michalis was much loved and admired. At the time of the election, Diane Fagiola, wife of current Lattingtown Mayor Robert Fagiola, said of him, “Clarence knows how things work – how roads are built and how to fix them, about storms and the damage they cause. He knows about wet-lands, mosquitoes, trees and wildlife. He can fix a diesel engine – still. He knows how to cut costs but not quality, and he’s balanced thousands of budgets. He also knows a lot about people – what bothers us, what moves us, what motivates us. He’s a brilliant leader. If I were caught in a storm at sea, I’d like to be in Clarence’s boat.”

Mayor Peter Quick of the Village of Mill Neck said, “I have never met a man more dedicated to his community than Clarence. He is a sage in terms of advice and the ultimate gentleman of Lattingtown. His experience is unparalleled. If he were running against me, I would vote for him.”

Loriann Cody of the Locust Valley Leader last saw Clarence on Sunday evening, June 25th, 2017, when he was honored for his 48 years of mayoral service at the Lattingtown home of Diane and Robert Fagiola. One U.S. Congressman, one State Senator, one Assemblyperson, one Nobel laureate, six mayors, local village trustees, family members and friends were among the more than 80 who toasted Michalis.

Clarence is survived by his wife of 64 years, Cora Bush and four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 13th at 1:00 PM at St. John’s Church in Lattingtown. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Merchant’s House Museum and the North Shore Land Alliance.

Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring.

Rosalinda

 

Source: New York Times, Newsday and and The Locust Valley Leader, April 4, 2018 by Loriann Cody.