For his final major painting before retiring, famed history artist Mort Künstler selected a fairly obscure Civil War event that occurred 150 years ago in LaGrange.
And, in the town a little more than an hour southwest of downtown Atlanta, the Troup County Historical Society will celebrate both the artist and the subject of his painting, the all-female Nancy Hart Militia, with a benefit event on Friday, April 17.
Guest of honor Künstler, a resident of Oyster Bay, N.Y., will unveil the painting, “LaGrange vs. LaGrange,” and sign canvas-printed reproductions.
The tribute marks the 150th anniversary of the day when the arms-toting Nancy Harts marched to the edge of town to meet invading Union troops, led by the ironically named Wisconsin Cavalry commander Col. Oscar LaGrange. The face-off occurred about a week after the Appomattox surrender, but before word had traveled to the town. LaGrange pledged that if the women would put down their guns, he would not burn their houses.
“The Nancy Harts story is unique not just to LaGrange, but also to the United States,” Troup County Historical Society President Jake Jones said. “We are honored to recognize their bravery and highlight this special piece of Troup County history. … The charming town we enjoy today would not be the same if not for the bravery of these women.”
Festivities beginning at 6 p.m. Friday will include a reception at Legacy Museum on Main, before the gathering moves across Main Street to Del’avant for dinner, the Künstler painting unveiling and a sneak preview from a forthcoming PBS documentary on the Nancy Harts. Tickets, $50.
Legacy Museum on Main is showing the exhibition “Recalling the End: The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War,” including reproductions of Künstler’s Civil War paintings, a Confederate uniform, photographs of the Nancy Harts and soldiers from west Georgia, historic maps and soldier letters home.
Künstler, who is 87 and has painted for more than six decades, also will sign copies of his painting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at the museum.
“I always thought I’d like to die at the easel, but I don’t want to do bad work,” he recently told the Civil War News. “And although I’m really doing a good painting – I think this new one is one of the best I’ve ever done – I would like to quit at a high note.”
Troup County Historian Clark Johnson told the monthly newspaper:“It’s a distinct honor for us for someone of his caliber to make us his swan song. It’s also a very fitting memorial for the women and their bravery.”
Benefiting Troup County Historical Society projects, the event is co-sponsored by Cartersville’s Booth Western Art Museum. Information: 706-884-1828, www.trouparchives.org.