On reflection, Admiral Ackbar was a bit rubbish. Losing your nerve at the first sign of reverse during a decisive battle isn't what great commanders are made of. It's a point made well by "Benson the Dog" in this post: "The Five Worst Leaders in the Original Star Wars Trilogy."
As the old saying goes, it's sometimes better to be lucky than good, and Ackbar got very lucky. But then, there's plenty of evidence from Earth's history (i.e. real stuff) to suggest military competence is often unrelated to elevated rank. Ackbar was probably from a well-heeled ... er, finned ... family back on his home planet.
Anyhow, all this got me thinking about real events and how classic artists might have approached capturing some of the military leaders on both sides during the Galactic Rebellion.
Fleet-Admiral Sir Gial Ackbar by Lemuel-Francis Abbott
Rather unfittingly, I've based this image on one of history's greatest naval commanders, Horatio Nelson. Unlike Ackbar, Nelson bought a (fish) farm during his decisive battle at Trafalgar. He did make a rather daft decision, though. Having had a premonition of his own demise immediately prior to the battle, he decided to wear full dress uniform as he paced the deck of HMS Victory, which was a big help to the French sniper who killed him.
Losing an arm and an eye during previous action, it was said "Nelson bore the pain without complaint," not something Admiral A was likely to do. Nelson's dying wish was that a grateful nation should look after his mistress, Lady Hamilton, and their daughter Horatia ... which it didn't. I imagine, had it been required, the Rebels would have been just as unappreciative and failed to provide for the, no doubt, thousands of fry Ackbar had spawned.
The Death of Vader, A Long Time Ago by Arthur Devis
And while on the subject of Trafalgar ... Here's Luke having a last word with his dad below deck on HMS Death Star (based on The Death of Nelson, 21 October 1805). You just know the commissioned ranks gathered round are willing him to croak, thereby saving them the inevitable choking that will ensue if he pulls through. While an infinitely better leader than our fishy-friend, Vader's habit of snuffing his own officers could be seen as a little distracting for them. As if fighting a war isn't stressful enough!
Surely great moments in Galactic history like this one deserve to be recorded in oils, or whatever the equivalent is in a galaxy far, far away. Palpatine had some old carvings in his penthouse suite, but I don't recall seeing any other art anywhere else. Seems like a huge cultural omission.
To redress the balance, I think Episode VII-Luke should have something like this on the wall of his den, except he'll probably call it a "meditation chamber" ... see, there's the thing about Jedi; they're such snobs.
On the whole, there's just not enough art in the Star Wars universe.
Governor Wilhuff Tarkin by Henry Raeburn
Now if anyone should be immortalized on canvas it must be Baron Frankenstein himself, Grand Moff Tarkin. Though we never saw it, he probably had a life-size one of these hanging in the officer's mess. The style of Sir Henry Raeburn seemed perfect for this task.
We never really saw enough of Tarkin to judge where he sits on the Ackbar scale, but we do know he wasn't a man to dwell on a decision; after all, he thought nothing of blowing away a densely populated planet. But wait, why didn't he do the same with the uninhabited Yavin? Oh well, we all have our faults.
Eagle-eyed knit-pickers among you may well feel they've found a continuity error here and draw my attention to the fact that Tarkin was dead before the construction of the second Death Star. While that is true, what you see here is in fact the first Death Star, which also had to be pieced together bit by bit ... so there.