Howard Chandler Christy Was born January 10, 1873 in Morgan County, Ohio, the son of Francis and Chandler Christy. He was raised on a family farm but quickly displayed an ambitious nature and a talent for art. At the age of 10 Christy was hired to paint the sign of a local butcher shop, landing his first commercial job. At 13 Toledo Blade accepted a sketch of his for publication. He was 16 when he came to New York to attend the Art Students League, but due to financial strain, returned to Ohio. Three years later he saved enough and was loaned enough money to move back, and began his studies at the National Academy of Design. He studied privately with a portraitist, William Merritt Chase, and began working with illustrations thereafter.
Christy married artist’s model Maybelle Thompson in 1898, the same year the U.S battleship Maine was destroyed. Christy immediately received commissions to cover the Spanish-American War, and he supplied magazines with drawings and paintings of the battlefields during conflict. He became famous with his picture, “The Soldier’s Dream” published in Scribners, accompanying a story. The girl in his illustration became known as “The Christy Girl”, and was later featured in McClure’s, Harper’s Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Collier’s Weekly. Christy described her as “Highbred, aristocratic and dainty though not always silken-skirted; a woman with tremendous self-respect.” During World War I, he designed posters encouraging Americans to join the War effort; not surprisingly, the “Christy girl” emerged in his illustrations. The illustrations were charming, seductive, and appealing. His women casually and gently invited men into the army, though also demanding to make war bonds or fight. His marriage with Maybelle ended in 1910, and he soon after married a young model, Nancy Palmer. Her image appeared in some of his most famous recruitment posters such as Gee, I Wish I Were a Man…I’d Join the Navy and I Want You…For the Navy.
After the War, Christy began to paint portraits of the rich and famous. Some of his subjects included President and Mrs. Coolidge, President Warren Harding, Mary Baker Eddy, Benito Mussolini, Crown Prince Umberto of Italy, Amelia Earhart, and several senators. When his popularity waned during the Great Depression he went back to painting women and landscapes. His fame returned, and he occasionally painted historical events. He created his best-known piece in 1940: “Signing the Constitution”, a painting of senators signing the Constitution. It still hangs in the U.S. Capital. Christy stated that it was, “not a mural but a historical painting.”
Christy worked on murals for the remainder of his life, ending in 1952 in New York City. He was honored by patriotic groups and greatly contributed to “Americanism”.