about the park
THE CHRISTY PAINTINGS
Howard Chandler Christy
There are two paintings by famed American artist Howard Chandler Christy located at the Stephen Foster Museum. “Beautiful Dreamer” was painted from a photograph of Foster. The photograph is a studio portrait of Foster, showing just his head and shoulders Christy who was no relation with the minstrel leader E.P. Christy was a very well-known illustrator from the 1890s on. His dapper men and Gibson-girl models were the height of fashion in the early decades of this century. He painted this canvas in 1948. “Beautiful Dreamer” is a very lush 20th-century view of the composer and his romantic fantasies. Three of Foster’s songs are represented by the images in the painting. “Beautiful Dreamer” is represented in the top right; and “Old Folks at Home” is represented by the image behind the chair. Christy was 75 years old when he painted this portrait.
The second Howard Chandler Christy painting at the Stephen Foster Museum is titled “Many Happy Days I Squandered.” The title of the painting is derived from the second verse of “Old Folks at Home” which has a line that reads “many happy days I squandered, many the songs I sung.” The painting is Christy’s interpretation of the second verse of that song. The young boy in the painting represents Foster as Christy perceive what he might have looked at this early age. The girl pictured represents a friend and refers to the days of carefree youth. Christy completed “Many Happy Days” in 1950, two years before his death. Christy was paid $5000 each for the two paintings you’ve seen today. Each of the paintings measures 62 square feet.
A third Christy painting of Foster entitled “INSPIRATION” is located at My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Howard Chandler Christy was born in Zanesville, Ohio, January 10, 1873. He inherited the patriotic traits from his ancestors that he expressed in his enlistment posters from World War 1, and his large historical paintings. When Christy started to school, teachers failed to keep his attention turned to spelling and arithmetic. Looking out the window, he sketched cows and horses on his slate. He resisted the urging of teachers to old his pencil in his right hand instead of his left, which he continued to use all his life in painting. He was commissioned by Harper’s Magazine, Scribner’s Magazine, and Leslie’s Weekly for letters and illustrations from the war zone. Among his works are “Men of the Army and Navy,” “Pastel Portraits in the Romantic Drama,” “Types of the American Girl,” “The American Girl,” “The Christy Girl,” “Our Girls,” and “Liberty Belles.” Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Christy credit for recruiting thousands of men by the posters he painted and donated in World War 1. This poster portrayed a young woman in a sailor suit. The caption reads, “Gee! I Wish I Were A Man, I’d Join the Navy.” Christy’s Masterpiece, “The Signing of the Constitution of the United States” hangs over the grand staircase in the Capitol of the United States in Washington, D.C. The painting measures twenty feet by thirty feet in size, the largest canvas in the United States. Christy died on March 3, 1952.