Robert E. Lee’s Reflection

Civil War Culture

It’s been some time since we had fun with Civil War artists.  This is Mort Kunstler’s newest print, titled “Lee’s Great Decision.”  I’ve been looking at this for the past 15 minutes and I finally figured out what is bothering me.  Given the angle at which Kunstler painted this scene, the wall mirror should be reflecting the furniture  It just doesn’t work.  The perspective is all out of whack.  The other thing I don’t quite get is the placement of Lee’s sword on the chair.  I find it difficult to imagine that he would walk into such a room and place it there as if were a coat.

Finally, where are the Confederate flags?

27 comments… add one

  • Corey Meyer Apr 10, 2012

    It is obviously a southern thang…and you of all people just don’t understand.

  • Harry Apr 10, 2012

    I’ve never been in Arlington House, but it’s my understanding that the room in which Lee deliberated is located in the front of the house (2nd floor) and is a very long and narrow room. And, why is everything in a Kunstler painting blue-gray?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 10, 2012

      I’ve been to Arlington, but I just don’t remember these colors. Perhaps he was going for that feeling of intimacy.

      Andy by the way, Thomas Kincaide called [from heaven :-(] and he wants his light returned.

    • Andy Hall Apr 10, 2012

      “And, why is everything in a Kunstler painting blue-gray?”

      Thank you. Kunstler has never been a favorite of mine, in large part because his colors are usually “off” in exactly that way. That, and every firearm in a battle scene seems to be going off simultaneously.

  • Seth Owen Apr 10, 2012

    I agree with your comments about perspective, but the reason why there are no Confederate flags is simple — it’s not a rebel yet!

    I believe the painting is meant to depict Lee wrestling with his decision to resign from the US Army to go South. Note that he’s in a blue US Army dress uniform.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 10, 2012

      I agree with your comments about perspective, but the reason why there are no Confederate flags is simple — it’s not a rebel yet!

      Thanks, Seth. That is what you call a joke. Kunstler loves to put multiple flags in his paintings. :-)

  • Andy Hall Apr 10, 2012

    I think the reflection is close enough. You’d be able to see the furniture in the foreground if you were looking straight into the mirror, but the viewer is looking into the mirror at an angle, so the reflection is at an equivalent angle, showing the other side of the room. You can just faintly see the back of the side chair on the opposite side of the table, which seems about right to me.

    It doesn’t do much for me otherwise; it seems rough, more like a sketch in oils to work out composition and lighting. Its style doesn’t fit the patrician subject well, but YMMV. Still, it’s not as treacly as this one.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 10, 2012

      For some reason I still can’t orient myself. It still looks out of whack to me.

      • Andy Hall Apr 10, 2012

        On a closer look, you may be right — if the mirror was (say) where the left-hand drapery was, it would be better.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 10, 2012

          That is exactly where it needs to be. Lee’s reflection also seems to me to be too small.

          • Harry Apr 10, 2012

            And IIRC, this room is way too big.

          • Brooks Simpson Apr 10, 2012

            If you look at the bowl in front of the mirror (and its reflection), you see how far off the whole thing is.

            • Kevin Levin Apr 10, 2012

              The execution is just all around bad.

      • Rob Baker Apr 10, 2012

        I just always assumed Robert E. Lee was in every mirror….judging you.

        • Brooks D. Simpson Apr 10, 2012

          From marble man to man in the mirror … Robert E. Lee and American Culture.

  • Ben Railton Apr 10, 2012

    Well, at least one thing is finally clarified here: Lee is _not_ one of the vampires whom Lincoln is hunting.

  • Andy Hall Apr 10, 2012

    The painting appears to be based on this modern image, right down to the askew position of the big wing chair. The opposite end of the room, which is reflected in the mirror in the photo, can be seen here. Neither mantlepiece, or someone leaning on the nearer one as shown in the painting, would appear reflected in the mirror.

  • Will Hickox Apr 10, 2012

    Kunstler’s popularity remains one of the baffling mysteries of our time.

  • TF Smith Apr 10, 2012

    Ben for the win.

    Maybe Lee was a werewolf?

  • Peter Winfrey Apr 11, 2012

    Possibly Lee’s Batcave was behind the revolving mirror and it had not reset itself correctly, thus reflecting him obliquely.

  • Ken Noe Apr 11, 2012

    We recently received several unsolicited free copies of Dennis Hamilton’s biography of billionaire entrepreneur Sam Wyly. On pages 278-79 is Kuntsler’s “Moonlight and Magnolias,” which according to Mr. Kunstler’s website the Wyly family commissioned to show off their former family home. What he doesn’t add is that the models surely seem to be Wyly and his family, decked out as Louisiana Confederates. The caption reads: “the Wyly family tree meets Gone With the Wind.” I wasn’t aware that Mr. Kunstler worked that way.

  • Ralph Poore Apr 11, 2012

    At first glance it reminded me of the painted scenery in the Haunted Mansion ride at DisneyWorld.

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