16 March 2007

"Christy Girl" - An American Icon

"Vintage Winged Folk"

This is a series I made for an online swap that eventually got lost in the mail! Was my worst nightmare coming true? Thank GOODNESS it eventually turned up ... although a few weeks late for the swap. I was relieved that the hostess was extremely understanding, a sweetheart actually, and quickly returned them to me.

The other good news was that I had more than one artist contact me to trade "Fairy ABCs" (card #5) and "Woman of Mystery" (card #3). Lesson learned ~ all things happen for a reason! Truthfully, sometimes all we need to do is to be a little more patient with ourselves and the true purpose of a particular challenge will reveal itself.

The names of the other 4 cards are, in order: sweet song, *american beauty, vintage angel and love takes flight!

American Beauty has an amazing story behind it. Interested in a little history from the ‘Golden Age of American Illustration’? Grab a cuppa and get comfortable while I spin a little "tale." One that I think you will enjoy reading!

This "girl" was sketched by an American artist named Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952). At the age of three he was sketching animals and by four his father purchased his first set of watercolors. In 1890 at the age of 17, Christy left his home town of Meigs Creek in Morgan County, Ohio. With $300.00 he set off for New York to pursue a career as an artist. He arrived in New York in 1890 and after some scouting around, enrolled at the Art Students League. William Merritt Chase was his first instructor and also tutored Christy privately at his Greenwich Village studio and later at his summer venue in Shinnecock, Long Island. Chase founded the first "plein air" art school in the country. The artists worked outdoors and were thus able to develop techniques and effects, which created greater ambience in their works. At this time, great technological advances were being made in Publishing. Christy sensed that a new field was opening up for his generation - providing illustrations for the burgeoning number of new periodicals. Reproduction technology evolved to the point where engravings were no longer the sole, tedious and expensive means to reproduce a painting. This inspired the needy young artist to turn to illustration as his profession. Illustration commissions rolled in thereafter and he was soon able to hire models and move his studio to larger quarters.

Established as an illustrator, Christy was moved patriotically by the explosion of the Battleship "Maine" in Cuba and signed on as an artist with the magazines covering the Spanish-American War. He accompanied the United States troops - the Rough Riders - and illustrated articles while under fire, which were published by Scribner's, Harper's, The Century, and Leslie's Weekly. During this campaign, Christy befriended Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and gained an even broader interest in patriotic subjects. Upon his return in 1898, he had become a celebrity from his war illustrations. The experience had been a turning point for him. His fame and reputation were secured with his picture, "The Soldier's Dream" published in Scribners. The girl he portrayed in that and subsequent paintings became known as "The Christy Girl". Like "The Gibson Girl," she was almost a prototype of the ideal American woman.

S. J. Woolf, in an interview, commented on Christy's notion of women: "They 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." Christy also described his image of what this woman was truly like, "High-bred, aristocratic and dainty though not always silken-skirted; a woman with tremendous self-respect. " From this point forward, Christy painted beautiful women for McClure's and other popular magazines. Calendars, book illustrations (some books he authored as well, such as: The Christy Girl, Bobbs-Merrill in 1906; and The American Girl in 1906) and other illustration commissions expanded his audience. Fame and fortune had found the young man from Ohio.
Christy died peacefully in new York at the age of 80 in 1952, in his beloved studio apartment at the Hotel des Artistes. His reputation through-out his life had been enormous and yet scarcely anything remains today, which describes this incredible man and his works.

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