An Affair with Beauty: The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy: Romantic Illusions

An Affair with Beauty: The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy: Romantic Illusions

by James Philip Head


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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 wife 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781545635278
Publisher: North Loop Books
Publication date: 03/03/2019
Pages: 478
Sales rank: 825,405
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

James Philip Head is an author and a law partner in Virginia. While a student at the University of Maryland, he discovered a gilt-edged folio of Charles Dana Gibson's The Social Ladder in the stacks of the campus library, starting him on a journey to learn more about Gibson and the "illustrators of beauty." He became captivated by the talent, fame, and subsequent obscurity of Howard Chandler Christy and began amassing the largest private collections of documents, photographs, and other material related to the artist. Over the years, he has interviewed Christy's former models, family members, and others who knew him and ultimately engaged research assistants throughout the country to help him uncover the true, untold story of Christy and his wife, Nancy. He is a law partner with Williams Mullen, P.C., 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.

Pamela Almand is a voice talent and Earphones Award-winning narrator.

Table of Contents

Foreword Everett Raymond Kinstler xiii

Preface 1

Book 2 Romantic Illusions

Chapter 1 Distant Dreams 7

Chapter 2 New Beginnings 35

Chapter 3 Orphans of the Storm 69

Chapter 4 The Great Flood 111

Chapter 5 The Return 151

Chapter 6 The Great Illustrators of Beauty 177

Chapter 7 The Rise of the Christy Girl 223

Chapter 8 "As Ever, Maebelle" 223

Chapter 9 The Art Brigade 253

Chapter 10 Breaking Ties 269

A List of Selected Portrait Sitters of Howard Chandler Christy 285

Author's Note 395

Notes 409

Endnotes 449

About the Author 457

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