Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Christy Girl...

I am always fascinated by the history behind the stuff that comes into my shop. This set of prints intrigued me because of the look on the women's faces. They are from the early 1900's, and they are by an illustrator called Howard Chandler Christy.
I love the expressions of the women...flirtatious yet the sense that the woman is totally in charge. We tend to forget that the Women's Movement had its beginnings and growing pains during the turn of the century.

The first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. A set of 12 resolutions was adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women. In 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton created the National Woman Sufferage Movement, and her Constitutional Amendment reached Congress in 1878 and began its journey through the states. By 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed. Hopefully, if they get a hold of the 14th Amendment, some of those men will not eye #19! But I digress...

Back to Mr. Christy who was born in 1873 in the middle of the women's revolution. He was just 22 when the first "Christy Girl" was published in the November, 1895 issue of The Century magazine.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. I love this picture...she has him holding his hands out while she winds the yarn.

In each print, the woman just has that look of flirt with "don't mess with me, mister" attitude!

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.
So, now you know who the "Christy" girl is...

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