mercoledì, luglio 13, 2016

An affair with beauty - The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy - The Magic of Youth - by James Philip Head

Nancy Palmer had clear ideas when she was a teenager of 16 years: thanks to her beauty she decided to leave her parents and her old life. She wanted in fact, to become a Gibson girl. So, the first step? The Big Apple.

At that time the most famous painter and illustrator in New York City was mr. Gibson. Portraying myriads of girls, Gibson was in grade to influence thanks to his drawings, paintings and illustrations the American culture and style course.

Nancy arrived to NYC and arranged a meeting with Gibson, although Gibson told her he preferred to recommend her to Christy if she wouldn't mind. Adding: if he will bring you to Ohio where he is born you will return as Mrs. Christy.

It's an effervescent book this first memoirs part, An Affair with Beauty - The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy - The Magic of Youth -  cover91991-medium written by James Philip Head and published by North Loop Books. A trilogy, this one the first part. 
Once at the university Head discovered a gilt-edged folio of Charles Gibson's The Social Ladder, starting to fall in love immediately for these illustrations. Illustrations of beautiful girls, Gibson was the first so-called "Illustrator of Beauty."

Although Head interested by Gibson's work later he became fascinated by the art of Howard Chandler Christy, personification of the American Dream. Poor, thanks to his talent Christy became one of the most relevant, acclaimed and stunning artist of his time.

Since there, James Head researched for people and illustrations  and places and museums, knocking at doors always opened, interviewing wagons of relatives, friends, and people in contact with the painter and illustrator. At the end he decided to write with this material some books.

As also Nancy did, Howard Christy as said, left his house in Ohio for moving his first steps as illustrator in NYC.

His teacher incredibly enthusiastic for this devoted and very talented pupil, the young man became very soon one of the main illustrators of the most prestigious and big magazines in New York City. It says all of his genuine talent and geniality, although for example Christy said once to a very young Nancy that talent all alone wouldn't never have paid. Training a talented person the best thing for obtaining the best.

After a while, and continuing we can say for all his life this process of researching for beauty and beautiful women for paintings and illustrations, Christy developed the desire also to portray famous people and situations. Actors, actresses, various Presidents of the Usa, senators, Benito Mussolini, the italian dictator. Christy portrayed everyone.

Born at the end of 1800, the fatal meeting with Nancy Palmer and their marriage.

Nancy remembers in the book that at the time of their first meeting he was 39 but he demonstrated 25 years and he was absolutely the most beautiful man she had every seen in all her life.

The first time he met him, well I guess it was a sort of dream to her, at the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

In itself the book is explored and narrated in first person choosing the privileged voice, eyes and spirit of the second-wife of the famous illustrator: Nancy Palmer Christy.

Mrs.Christy will remember firstly the day of the departure of her husband in 1942. 80 year, Christy was born in 1872 although he always thought he was born in 1873. Nancy remembers he hadn't lost his enthusiasm for life.


According to Christy three words will follow people for their entire life: Youth, Age and Beauty.

Youth, as also said Lorenzo Dé Medici, pretty quickly will pass away leaving the place at other Life's seasons. The second word let us think we are not anymore that young the word: "Age." Age means that we can start to compare the "dear old times" with the the newest people's ones. But so, should we start to be sad because we are more adult? No because age brings wisdom, a different capacity of seeing things under other perspectives, because it's a normal growth of body and spirit.
Of course mrs Nancy said some of their friends complained a lot sometimes for not being anymore as young as they were, but not them.


What will remain so of this life and what will be searched for all the life from Man? Beauty. Beauty in fact is not dirty, offensive, immoral, but harmonic, immortal and in peace with the universe and good for our souls and our feelings.

This philosophy inspired all Christy's life.

The book opens officially, after an introduction on the works of Christy with the heart attack and unexpected departure of the creative.

They didn't wait something so abruptly and dramatic, tells Nancy Christy although Christy had suffered of a heart attack one night closely to Christmas in 1941. He sorted out that first heart attack successfully.

Nancy remembers the touching moments followed the news of the heart attack of her husband.

Once returned home Christy started to receive every sorta of gifts,flowers, baskets of food, stay-well cards from the most diversified and famous people. Christy was a friend of reverend Norman Vincent Peale and he wrote him beautiful and encouraging words.

It was a day like another one, when Christy asked to his wife to go to the bank. Mrs Christy left the husband with one of their maid and a dear beloved friend for discovering at her return that her husband, the reason of her life was passed away.

Nancy Christy lived devastatingly moments. She felt a cold spot in a room for example, and she lived per years with the memory of her husband without to search other company. The funeral will take a lot of pages because Nancy Christy interested to remember all the most important and famous participants at the funeral.

Then, fresh air, absolutely another atmosphere, her first meeting with her future husband, and her trip with him in Ohio, a trip for discovering a place the artist loved a lot, but also for understand him and his soul much better.

The scheme of the book starts with the end of this illustrator and with the beginning of the romantic story with Nancy. I found it stylistically captivating.

It's an old-fashioned atmosphere, nostalgic, the structure of the book is precious, and also the English language extremely cured. Not the common English you find in modern books, but an old-fashioned style, precious as life once was precious.

The character of Nancy Christy wonderfully well portrayed by the writer for sure.

I can't wait to read the second book of this trilogy.

I thanks Netgalley for this beautiful book.


Anna Maria Polidori

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