A very rare surviving cast bronze decorative plaque commemorating America’s Sesquicentennial Celebration of the nation’s 250th birthday. This depicts the founding fathers at the Signing of Independence with an idealized stylized Lady Liberty, and bears the title ‘We The People.’ The image was created by the beloved American Historic Illustrator Howard Chandler Christy. This is a very rare historic piece in a WPA aesthetic from the Golden Age of American Illustration. Seemingly created as a one of a kind artwork, this bronze plaque weighs 15 lbs 2 ounces and is very well articulated with original warm patina and surface.
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 only 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.