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 Howard Chandler Christy  (1872 - 1952)

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Lived/Active: New York/Ohio      Known for: illustration, figure-female, genre

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Howard Chandler Christy
from Auction House Records.
Nymphs in Summer
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Howard Chandler Christy' was one of America's most distinguished illustrators, whose work, like that of Norman Rockwell, successfully captured the pulse of the nation.

His career was established when he worked for Scribner's and Leslie's Weekly doing illustrations of American troops in Cuba during the Spanish American War.  After that, he was most sought after for his sumptuous, lush portraits of women, although he also painted other notables that included President Calvin Coolidge, General Douglas McArthur, Eddie Rickenbacker, Douglas MacArthur, Amelia Earhart, Herbert Hoover, and Benito Mussolini.

He was also a muralist and much sought-after teacher, giving classes in New York City at Cooper Union, the Chase School, the New York School of Art, and the Art Students League.

Christy was born on January 10, 1872 in Morgan County, Ohio as reflected in the  court records of that county.  Thus the often cited birth date of 1873 seems to be an error, likely perpetuated by Christie himself, as he stated that 1873 was his birth year in his 1920's passport and even on a handwritten letter that he penned.  Only in his later years did Christy learn that he was born in 1872, not in 1873 as he had thought.  By that time, the damage had been done, and the public believed he was born in 1873.  However, one only has to look at his gravestone at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester, New York to unravel the century old mystery.  It says he was born in 1872.

Christy grew up on his family farm.  At age sixteen, he went to New York City to study at the Art Student's League, and after less than four years, he entered the National Academy of Design where he won two prizes in draughtsmanship.

He worked for Scribner's Magazine as an illustrator for a number of years beginning in 1898. In addition to illustrating articles and stories, he traveled to Cuba and Puerto Rico and sent back illustrations of Spanish-American War activity. It was through this work as a commercial artist that he became a nationally known illustrator.

After his return to the United States, he taught for a brief time in New York; however, he soon returned to his hometown of Duncan Falls. There he built a studio and summer home and divided his time between painting and entertaining visiting authors and publishers.

While living in Ohio, he became famous for his stylized depictions of women, popularly known as "Christy Girls." These illustrations appeared in many publications and print art, and were eventually used on recruitment posters for Word War I.

By 1915, he had returned once again to New York City and soon took up portrait painting. Later in life Christy began painting large historical murals. In 1945, he was commissioned by the state of Ohio to paint The Signing of the Treaty of Greene Ville, which today hangs in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. His most famous of these large compositions, The Signing of the Constitution of the United States is located above the grand staircase in The Capitol in Washington DC.

Christy died in 1952 at his apartment in New York.

Sources:
The Ohio Historical Society
The Illustrator in America, 1880-1980 by Walt and Roger Reed
Morgan County Court Records, Ohio
additional information courtesy of James Head

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following was written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California:

Christy grew up on his family farm; he went to New York City at age sixteen to study at the Art Students League and after less than four years he entered the National Academy of Design where he won two prizes in draftsmanship.  His career was established when he worked for Scribners and Leslie's Weekly doing illustrations of American troops in Cuba during the Spanish American War.  After that, he was most sought after for his sumptious lush portraits of women, although he also painted other notables that included Calvin Coolidge, Charles Evans Hughes, Will Hays,  Garner, Bankhead, Mussolini, Amelia Earhart, Eddie Rickenbacher, Lawrence Tibbett and others.  He painted illustrations for all well-known publishers.

He was also a muralist and a much sought-after teacher, giving classes in New York City at Cooper Union, the Chase School, the New York School of Art and the Art Students League.  He worked for Scribner's Magazine as an illustrator for a number of years beginning in 1898 in addition to illustrating articles of Spanish-American War activity. It was through his work as a commercial artist that he became a nationally known illustrator.

Eventually he returned to his hometown of Duncan Falls, Ohio, built a studio and a summer home and divided his time between painting and entertaining visiting authors and publishers.  He soon became famous for his stylized depictions of women, popularly known as "Christy Girls," which were used on recruitment posters for World War I.  Later in life Christy began painting large historical murals.  His most famous of these is "The Signing of the Constitution of the United States" which is located above the grand staircase of The Capitol in Washington, D.C.  Christy died in 1952 in New York City.

Source:
ARTnews, March 1976


Biography from American Illustrators Gallery:
For Howard Chandler Christy it was a long road from Ohio, watching steamboats on the Muskingum River, to painting Presidents, society’s grand dames, Hollywood stars and Army Generals.

Christy arrived in New York in 1890 to attend the Art Students League where he studied with William Merritt Chase. At that time, great technological advances were being made in publishing, and Christy witnessed a new field opening - providing illustrations for the burgeoning new periodicals.

Reproduction technologies had evolved to the point where engraving was no longer the only means to reproduce a painting. The new technological innovations inspired the needy young artist to turn to illustration as a profession. His first project was illustrating "In Camphor", a book by Frank Crowninshield, which when completed inspired other commissions.

Christy was patriotically moved by the explosion of the Battleship ‘Maine’ and he signed-on to cover the Spanish-American War. Accompanying the Rough Riders under fire, he illustrated articles published by Scribner's, Harpers, Century, and Leslie’s Weekly to the utter delight of readers back home. In the process, Christy befriended Col. Theodore Roosevelt and gained a broader interest in patriotic subjects. By the time he returned home in 1898, he was a celebrity. His fame and reputation were truly secured with ‘The Soldier's Dream’ published in Scribner's where he portrayed a beautiful girl known as ‘The Christy Girl.’ Like ‘The Gibson Girl,’ she was a prototype for an ideal American woman, “High bred, aristocratic and dainty though not always silken-skirted; a woman with tremendous self respect."

From that point forward, Christy painted beautiful women for McClure's and other popular magazines. Calendars and book illustrations, some with articles which he authored, such as The Christy Girl, and The American Girl, expanded his audience. These articles and pretty illustrations combined to make his notion of a beautiful girl, everyone’s criteria thereafter.

In 1908, he returned to the riverbanks of the Muskingum River and enlarged his childhood home, 'The Barracks', by adding a studio. In spite of being far away from the mainstream, publishers beat their way to his door and by 1910, his commission rates reached an astounding $1,000 per week.

In 1915, Christy returned to New York and continued on his career path with magazine commissions. As war once again appeared imminent, Christy rallied his talents to assist the war effort by painting posters for government war bonds, the Red Cross, Navy, Marines, and in support of civilian volunteer efforts. His famous poster of a young woman dressed in a sailors uniform with the caption, “If I were a man, I would join the Navy”, is a classic from this period.

The 1920's were of course the times for illustrators to reap rewards. New directions, styles and music combined with the business boom to create a huge market for portrait artists, in particular as the wealthy and famous all craved immortality on canvas. Christy turned away from illustration and painted notables including Benito Mussolini, Crown Prince Umberto of Italy, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, U.S. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Coolidge, Hoover, Polk, Van Buren and Garfield; humorist Will Rogers, aviator Amelia Earhart, General Douglas MacArthur, and William Randolph Hearst. Exhibitions, commissions, trips to Europe and celebrity elbow-rubbing engaged him completely during the 1920's.

In 1925, after his earlier successes with ‘The American Girl’ and ‘The Christy Girl,’ he was commissioned to undertake a sculpture, which he titled, ‘Miss America’ after having been the sole judge in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. It was awarded Oscar-style, to the winner.

In 1934, Christy painted magnificent murals of female nudes at the Cafe des Artistes in New York, a restaurant on the ground floor of his studio building. There was a new recognition of Christy and a new kind of commission painting allegorical works depicting historical events and posters to memorialize significant events. He painted illustrations again, but of a wholly different sort.

The 1940's witnessed Christy undertaking mainly historical pieces such as ‘The Signing of the Constitution’ (his most famous mural, it hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Building) ‘Signing the United Nations Charter’ and his portrayal of Thomas Edison in ‘Dawn of a New Light.’

Howard Chandler Christy died peacefully at the age of 80 in 1952, in his beloved studio apartment at the Hotel des Artistes in NYC.

©2004 National Museum of American Illustration, www.americanillustration.org

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV:
Howard Chandler Christy was a prominent American artist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Christy was born on January 10, 1873, in Ohio. He spent his youth on his parents' farm near Duncan Falls. Later in life, he recorded fond memories of the time that he spent along the Muskingum River. As a child, his mother encouraged Christy's work as a painter and sketch artist. In 1890, Christy left Duncan Falls and moved to New York City for formal training as an artist. Christy remained in New York for just a short time. He enrolled at the Art Students League, but soon ran out of funds to support himself. He moved back to Ohio, but returned to New York once again in 1892.

In New York, Christy studied under William Merritt Chase. Chase encouraged his students to paint their subjects in a realistic manner. Christy adopted this realistic style. The young artist began illustrating books and magazine articles. Because of his success as an illustrator, Christy managed to open his own studio. He began to paint portraits and landscape scenes.

Christy became a well-known artist because of his involvement in the Spanish-American War. During this conflict, the artist accompanied American soldiers into battle. Christy provided magazines, such as Scribner's, Harper's, The Century, and Leslie's Weekly, with drawings of the battlefields. After the war, Christy became famous for his artwork depicting a young woman. She became known as the "Christy girl," and Christy used her image in books, magazines, calendars, and even patriotic posters. Christy once stated that the "Christy girl" was "High-bred, aristocratic and dainty though not always silken-skirted; a woman with tremendous self-respect." One critic echoed these sentiments, proclaiming that the "Christy girl:"

...represented the awakening female, no longer content to preside over the kitchen, to be forbidden the golf course or the vote. The way Christy drew her, she was popular with the males because of her charm, while the young women liked her because she embodied their dreams of emancipation.

Over the next decade, Christy emerged as one of America's most popular artists and illustrators. He returned to his childhood home in Ohio and opened his own studio. He soon was earning more than one thousand dollars per week as an illustrator. His fame continued to grow during the 1910s. He returned to New York and opened a studio in 1915. During World War I, he drew posters encouraging his fellow Americans to support the war effort. Once again, the "Christy girl" figured prominently in his artwork.

Following the world war, Christy slowly turned away from painting the "Christy girl." During the 1920s, the artist painted the portraits of a number of well-known Americans, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Eddie Rickenbacker. At the beginning of the Great Depression, Christy's popularity briefly declined but the artist returned to painting women and landscape scenes. His celebrity status returned, and he began to paint commemorative paintings of historical events. His most famous painting from this era shows the signing of the United States Constitution. It hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol building. Two of Christy's works from this period also hang in the Ohio Statehouse.

Christy died in 1952 in New York City.

Source: www.OhioHistoryCentral.org

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Howard Chandler Christy is recognized as one of America's most accomplished illustrators of the early twentieth century.  He was particularly known for the "Christy Girl," a new idealized standard of modern beauty he established in his depictions of women.

Christy was born in Ohio and showed exceptional artistic talent at an early age. Determined to pursue a career in art, he moved to New York City in 1890 and studied with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League and privately at the Tenth Street Studio. Christy entered the National Academy of Design in 1893 and was singled out for skillful draftsmanship.  He also displayed great facility as a painter, but decided to pursue a career in illustration, influenced by noted illustrators Edwin Austin Abbey and Howard Pyle.  Christy quickly excelled in his chosen field, and his work was featured in the most prominent periodicals of the day, as well as in books.  He also served as a sketch artist during the Spanish American War; his drawings were widely published back home.

Dashing virtuosity and a lush application of pigment in muted tonalities characterizes Christy's work in oil, as illustrated by Live Oak, New Orleans and other landscapes from the 1920s.  This period also marked the artist's declining interest in illustration as he began concentrating on portraiture and landscape subjects that reflect the painterly example of his mentor, Chase.  In the 1930s, Christy's production had a more decorative orientation and included screens, panels, and murals, particularly of sylph-like nudes in woodland settings.  From the late 1930s until his death, he produced a number of ambitious paintings devoted to historical and religious themes, despite declining health and eyesight.

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from the Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


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