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  EXCEPTIONALLY RARE PATRIOTIC POSTER ENTITLED “WE THE PEOPLE,” BY HOWARD CHANDLER CHRISTY (1873-1952), PRODUCED IN 1937 FOR THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION, SIGNED BY SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD, THE LONGEST SERVING MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 39.75" x 29.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 30" x 19.5"
Description....:
Exceptionally rare poster with artwork by Howard Chandler Christy (January 10, 1873 – March 3, 1952), one of America’s most famous illustrators of the early 20th century. Made to celebrate of the 1937 sesquicentennial of the signing of the United States Constitution (1887), the image features a rendition of Lady Columbia (a.k.a., Lady Liberty / Goddess of Liberty), with characteristics that are at the same time indicative of Art Nouveau, and with illustrator art of the time.

Christy became famous for 6,000 images of his iconic "Christy Girl," featured in countless national magazines. His three wives over his lifetime served as models for most of his work, though he also painted American presidents, actors and socialites, as well as allegorical scenes and landscapes. The woman pictured in this lithographed and hand-colored poster is Elise Ford, who Christy met in the early 1930's. Forty years his junior, she became his companion until his death at age 80. In my opinion this is his most beautiful portrayal of a Christy Girl across all of his known renditions.

This is a very rare object among Christy posters. Printed in the in layers like the exquisite French-made counterparts, this American-made example (so noted in the lower left), produced under contract with the United States Constitutional Sesquicentennial Commission (marked in the lower right), is practically unknown. One exists in an institutional collection. Two leading American poster dealers, authorities in the field, both professed never having encountered it before. Neither had ever seen it until just recently, in spite of a collective 80 years or so in the business, extensive inventories and experience. With richly colored and metallic gold pigments, it was an exquisite find. I had known of the design for years, having seen it white researching images of Lady Columbia, as well as Christy’s patriotic works, and not being able to forget it, but I had no idea of the rarity.

This particular example was presented as a gift by United States Senator Robert C. Byrd, who holds the distinction of being the longest serving senator in American history to date. His signature and notation read as follows:

“With Compliments of Robt. C. Byrd, M.C. [Member of Congress]”

A Brief History of Howard Chandler Christy:
Born in Morgan County, Ohio, Christy attended early school in the town of Duncan Falls. He went on to study at the National Academy in New York and at the Art Students League, under William Merritt Chase. In his professional career, he first attracted attention with his realistic illustrations and several articles as a combat artist during the Spanish-American War, that included the Battle of Las Guasimas, the Battle of El Caney and the Battle of San Juan Hill, published in Scribner's and Harper's magazines and in Collier's Weekly. He gained especial prominence with the series, "Men of the Army and Navy," and a portrait of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, that appeared on the cover of his Rough Riders series, published by Scribner's. These illustrations propelled Christy to national prominence. He went on to paint patriotic posters for both the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps, and he came to be known for his illustrations of the works of such well-known war correspondents as Richard Harding Davis.

In 1939, Christy was commissioned to paint a 20 x 30 foot mural entitled "Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States," which was installed in the stairwell of the West Wing of the United States Capitol, and remains there today. At a price of $30,000, it became the largest and most expensive painting commissioned to date by the federal government. The painting took three years to research and complete. According to researcher Samantha Baskind, professor of art history at Cleveland State University, "Christy was given access to the Navy shipyard, because no studio could accommodate the enormous 1,700-pound canvas. With the 290-member Navy band practicing in the background, Christy worked daily from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the composition beginning September 19, 1939, and continuing until the end of April 1940. Preceded by the artist’s two earlier allegorical versions of the same subject [one of which is depicted in this poster], Christy’s conceptualizations of the signing of the Constitution were very much a part of American consciousness in their own day." (Source: Baskind, Samantha, “Winterthur Portfolio: “Allegory vs. Authenticity: The Commission and Reception of Howard Chandler Christy's The Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” (2012, University of Chicago Press).

Brief History of Robert C. Byrd:
“Robert C. Byrd gained his higher education in the United States Senate. Rising from an impoverished childhood in the coalfields of West Virginia, Byrd entered public office in 1947 without a college degree. As a senator he earned a law degree by attending classes in the evenings, and he never stopped studying. His careful reading of the Senate’s rules, precedents, and history made him a formidable opponent in debate and fueled his rise through party leadership to become Democratic Conference secretary (1967-1971), whip (1971-1977), and leader (1977-1989). He delivered more than 100 addresses on the history of the Senate, which were collected and published for the Senate’s bicentennial in 1989…Senator Byrd died on June 28, 2010, having served for 51 years, 5 months, and 26 days.” (Source: https://www.senate.gov/senators/FeaturedBios/Featured_Bio_ByrdRobertC.htm)

Mounting: The black-painted and hand-gilded, Italian molding has a wide, shaped profile. A mat, wrapped in 100% cotton twill, black in color, was used to support the poster away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective plexiglass. The black fabric was washed and treated for colorfastness.

Condition: minor abrasions at edges; minor creases in margins and image. Signed on right center.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type:
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1937
Latest Date of Origin: 1937
State/Affiliation:
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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