Fame, fortune, and beautiful models – Howard Chandler Christy had them all. Christy was the most famous American painter of the Jazz Age, a time when an elite brotherhood of New York artists dominated the publishing world. Christy had eclipsed all of them with his “Christy Girl,” an idealized woman who redefined beauty, influenced fashion, and inspired generations of women. Illustrated in popular magazines, best-selling novels, and top-ranked newspapers, the “Christy Girl” transformed the artist into a household name. In Romantic Illusions, the second book in Head’s An Affair with Beauty trilogy, Christy once again comes to life through the eyes of Nancy Palmer Christy, his wide and former model, as she recounts her first Christmas with Howard and his family at his Ohio mansion, the Barracks, in 1912. Howard tells of his early years studying art in near-poverty in New York City and his sudden ascent to stardom as the top pupil of William Merritt Chase, the premier portrait painter in America. During “The Great Flood of 1913” – the worst tragedy the Midwest had ever experienced—Howard describes his daring experiences with Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War in Cuba and his brush with near-certain death, no less than three times. The effects of the war profoundly transform Howard, inspiring him to create his vision of beauty, the “Christy Girl,” which catapults him to stardom. When romance blossoms between artist and model, Howard is slow to seek a divorce from his estranged wife, Maebelle, jeopardizing Nancy’s desires and compelling her to uncover his scandalous past. As World War I break out, Howard returns to New York City, forcing Nancy to risk everything as she reveals her true feelings for him.
BOOK TWO - AN AFFAIR WITH BEAUTY:THE MYSTIQUE OF HOWARD CHANDLER CHRISTY
James Philip Head
North Loop Books (2019)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (2/19)
“Romantic Illusions” is the second book in the An Affair with Beauty trilogy by James Philip Head. An exquisite celebration honoring the life of Howard Chandler Christy, one of the most famous American artists and illustrators in the Jazz Era, this book is a piece of art in itself.
Howard Chandler Christy is perhaps best known for the “Christy Girl,” a representation of the ideal modern woman at the turn of the twentieth century. His work encompassed a much wider scope than beautiful women however, because Howard Chandler Christy saw beauty in everything. His creations include illustrations of events witnessed first-hand during the Spanish-American War, illustrations for magazines, posters aiding WWI recruitment efforts for the military, and portraits of some of the most well-known, powerful and influential people during the time period, including presidents and congressmen, movie stars, socialites, generals, etc.
“Romantic Illusions” covers Howard Chandler Christy’s life in the early years as he was making a name for himself as an illustrator, up to the time when he chooses his new profession in the art world as a portraitist.
I have to say I loved everything about this book from beginning to end! Howard Chandler Christy was a figure larger than life. By documenting this life in such a beautiful manner, the author does justice not only to Christy’s legacy but to the art world and American history as well.
The story is told from the perspective of Howard’s wife, Nancy Palmer Christy, and the delivery is spell-binding. Set in 1969, Nancy Palmer Christy is now an elderly woman, and as she reflects on her early days with Howard and their time together, she transports the reader back in time. I felt as though she was speaking to me directly. The inclusion of Howard’s voice interacting with Nancy throughout the narrative allows readers the opportunity to actually get inside his head, and by the end of the story readers will experience a familiar camaraderie with Howard, and actually with Nancy as well.
“Romantic Illusions” is a remarkable story and the author, James Philip Head, does an amazing job. Well-written, engaging, no – mesmerizing, the passion he has for his subject is undeniable. Going far beyond the bounds of typical research, one gets the impression James Philip Head somehow transported himself directly into the artist’s shoes, reliving Christy’s experiences first-hand. As a reader, I was moved and appreciated the attention to detail and the love that was put into keeping the legacy that is Howard Chandler Christy alive.
Further demonstrating the author’s passion for his work, he also includes a complete listing of the portraits painted by Christy during his lifetime in the back of the book. As per the author’s impeccable style, this is not a mere listing of names and dates – no, no. Rather, he has taken the time to research the people in these portraits, regaling readers with interesting tidbits of their lives. I found this section to be fascinating!
As with everything else I’ve mentioned, the production quality of this book is superior – from the satiny pages to the gorgeous cover art and amazing photographs displayed throughout. I think it’s fair to say this book is a beautiful complement to any personal library. I have my copy displayed on my coffee table, which has piqued the curiosity of many family members and friends, beginning with my young history graduate!
Everything about “Romantic Illusions,” book two in the An Affair with Beauty trilogy by James Philip Head is top-notch – a notable piece celebrating American culture, art, history, and beauty – and an extraordinary read. Well done!
An Affair with Beauty - The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy: Romantic Illusions is the Second Installment in a New Biographical Trilogy Celebrating the Life of the Most Famous Painter of the Jazz Age
WASHINGTON (PRWEB) MARCH 06, 2019
In An Affair with Beauty - The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy: Romantic Illusions (March 3, 2019, North Loop Books, 9781545635278, $46) — the dynamic second installment of a three-part biographical series celebrating the illustrious career and epic life of legendary illustrator and portraitist Howard Chandler Christy—author James Philip Head once again immortalizes one of America’s most famous and enchanting artists through the eyes of Nancy Palmer Christy, his wife and former model.
Romantic Illusions examines Howard Christy’s early years in near-poverty in New York City as he was making a name for himself as an illustrator in the 1890s, up to the time when he chooses his new profession as a portraitist in 1921. During “The Great Flood of 1913” – the worst tragedy the Midwest had ever encountered – Christy describes his daring experiences with Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War in Cuba and his brush with near-certain death, no less than three times. The effects of the war profoundly transform Howard, inspiring him to create his vision of beauty, the “Christy Girl,” which catapults him to fame and fortune. Later, Christy’s iconic World War I posters compel men and women to join the effort or purchase liberty bonds.
Everett Raymond Kinstler, the foremost living portrait painter in America, honors Christy, his predecessor and friend, by penning the book’s foreword which recalls the profound effect Christy had upon Kinstler and his art. Kinstler, who has immortalized with his painter’s brush some of the greatest American men and women over the last 70 years including eight U.S. Presidents (his portraits of President Ford and President Reagan are the official White House portraits), ten Secretaries of State and more than fifty Cabinet members, went from high school dropout to painting a veritable who’s who of American history and culture spanning the mid-20th to early 21st centuries.
An Affair with Beauty – The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy: Romantic Illusions is now available wherever books are sold. The audiobook, narrated by 2016 Audie Award Finalist Pamela Almand of Atlantic Beach, FL, will be released this March (through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.
About the Author
As a freshman at the University of Maryland, Jim Head discovered a gilt-edged folio of Charles Dana Gibson’s The Social Ladder in the stacks of the campus library one night, starting him on a journey to learn more about Gibson and the “Illustrators of Beauty.” In turn, he became captivated with the talent, fame and eventual obscurity of Howard Chandler Christy, and began amassing the largest private collection of information related to the artist and his wife, Nancy. Over the years, to reveal the true untold story, he has engaged research assistants, uncovered thousands of letters and newspaper articles, and traveled throughout the US to interview dozens of people, including family members, former models, and others who knew the artist and his family. Head is an attorney in Tysons Corner, Virginia where he concentrates in estate planning and trust and estate litigation. He lives in Chantilly, Virginia with his wife, Rita, and daughter, Christianna.
What People are Saying:
“An exquisite celebration honoring the life of Howard Chandler Christy, one of the most famous American artists and illustrators in the Jazz Era, this book is a piece of art in itself . . . . Howard Chandler Christy was a figure larger than life. By documenting this life in such a beautiful manner, the author does justice not only to Christy’s legacy but to the art world and American history as well . . . . Romantic Illusions is a remarkable story and the author, James Philip Head, does an amazing job. Well-written, engaging, no – mesmerizing, the passion he has for his subject is undeniable.” —Reader Views
“Christy was a highly sought-after portrait artist and rapidly rose to become the most popular commissioned artist of the era, capturing the likenesses of senators, congressmen, princes, industrialists and movie stars. His work hangs in the U.S. Capitol, White House, U.S. State Department, and many museums and state capitals throughout America. The lush and vibrant paintings that he did for the glamorous restaurant Café des Artistes (now the Leopard at des Artistes) still adorns the walls.”—Forbes
“Christy's work set standards for beauty in the early 20th century that would become iconic.” —The New York Daily News