An Affair with Beauty: The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy

James Philip Head. North Loop Books, $23 (292p) ISBN 978-1-63413-882-6
Head’s glowing and revelatory biographical novel chronicles the life of Howard Chandler Christy, a talented painter of celebrities, dignitaries, and beautiful women, whose models were known as Christy Girls. Born in an Ohio log cabin in 1872, Christy’s talent was apparent from a very young age; at 18 he went to New York to study at the Art Students League, where he was singled out as “brilliant” by his teachers. Christy was a magazine illustrator in his early 20s, followed by a stint as a sketch artist in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Back in New York, Christy became a well-paid illustrator, then shot to fame with his Christy Girl portraits and large-scale historical murals. His famous painting of the signing of the Constitution hangs in the U.S. Capitol. Christy’s second wife, Nancy, was his model and muse until his death in 1952; the narrative is mostly from her perspective and from reminiscences or writings ascribed to her. Abundant anecdotes provide insight into Christy’s personality, life with Nancy, and philosophical musings. Head emphasizes that Christy’s lifelong obsession with beautiful women, the “romanticized, statuesque goddess,” was as much about inner beauty as physical perfection. (BookLife)
Reviewed on: 01/16/2017
Release date: 08/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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