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    Description

    Howard Chandler Christy (American, 1872-1952)
    100 Years of Progress, 1936
    Oil on canvas laid on Masonite
    58 x 39-1/4 inches (147.3 x 99.7 cm)
    Signed lower left: Howard Chandler Christy

    Property from the Collection of The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, Sold to Benefit the Management and Care of the Museum Collections.

    PROVENANCE:
    The collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Cortell, Lyndhurst, Ohio;
    The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, gift from the above, 1974.

    This undated painting is the only known work by the celebrated American illustrator Howard Chandler Christy to depict the subject of a Texas Centennial. The image features a monumental allegorical figure with attributes combining Liberty and Victory (she wears a crown of laurels), brandishing the flag of the Lone Star State that unfurls behind her. Michael Grauer, McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture and Curator of Cowboy Collections and Western Art at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, has kindly suggested in recent conversation with Heritage that the allegorical figure could read more specifically within the painting's context as "Mother Texas." (Grauer to Marianne Berardi, September 30, 2021) She glides forward under a banner reading "100 Years of Progress," which is underscored by the horn of plenty she displays in her right hand. She is buoyed up by clouds, hovering over a landscape dotted with a host of Texas icons. To the left is a sea of oil derricks, the modern skyline of the city of Houston, ships on the Gulf of Mexico, and a swath of verdant ranchland. Foregrounded is a herd of cattle at the stockyards. To the right is the state capitol building at Austin, a Spanish mission-style building resembling the Alamo, and fruit farmers working in an orchard.

    Because no record of this image is known to exist among Christy's published works, relevant archival documents, or Texas Centennial memorabilia, its specific date and intended purpose remain a topic of lively discussion and debate among scholars, collectors, and enthusiasts of Texas art and culture. The two most prevalent opinions are that it was commissioned either for something associated with the celebration of the 1936 Centennial of Texas' independence from Mexico (1836-1936), or in conjunction with the 1945 Centennial of Texas Statehood (1845-1936).

    It seems somewhat unlikely that this work was commissioned as part of the huge publicity machine for the massive 1936 Centennial Exposition held June 6 through November 29, 1936 in Dallas' Fair Park. For one thing, it was never used. Granted, within the context of the powerful Art Deco flavor of the 1936 Centennial buildings at Fair Park, with their sleek lines and bold patterns, Christy's impressionistic approach would have looked like a fish out of water. Moreover, even if it had been commissioned for this purpose, Christy's design may have been "sidelined" by the intense controversy that erupted over the Centennial committee's hiring of non-Texan artists to do the murals and the sculpture at the Fair, despite the fact that Texas was a hot bed of regionalist art.

    One of the foremost experts on Texas Centennial material, Wallace O. Chariton, has kindly shared: "Whenever I am asked to authenticate Centennial items I am always hesitant to do so for anything that is NOT dated 1936 (or at least '36) and does not actually state 'Centennial.' My thought process is simple, why produce a 'Centennial souvenir' that is not identified as such in any way. In my opinion I would say this is probably NOT from the 1936 Centennial. Based on the massive amount of Centennial material I have seen over the last 50+ years this item just doesn't have a 1936 Centennial feel to it. If I had to guess I would say it was likely for the 100th year of statehood. Most Texas historians I know consider that progress in Texas really began with statehood in 1845, while independence began in 1836." (Chariton to Berardi, September 28, 2021)

    Fort Worth art historian and collector Scott Barker has generously pointed out a link that helps date the work closer to 1936 than 1945: "The figure in this painting is the same model Christy used for the 1935 Will Rogers Memorial Fund poster, Elisa Ford, his primary model of the 1930s. She's even wearing the same dress. In my mind that places the creation date of Christy's Texas-themed painting squarely in the 1936 timeframe. And that suggests a 1936 Texas Centennial connection." (Barker to Berardi, October 3, 2021) Grauer also subscribes to the theory the image "was likely for the Texas Centennial of the Republic of Texas in 1936, not the [1945] statehood. The latter has always existed as a murmur whereas the former is always played up in Texas." Grauer also noted: "Christy was still holding his own as a hugely popular illustrator in the mid-1930s (Republic Centennial). By the mid-1940s (Statehood Centennial) he was well past his prime and recognition factor."

    At the time this catalogue went to press, the general consensus among Texas scholars and collectors is that Howard Chandler Christy's Texas painting was connected to the 1936 Texas Centennial celebration in some way, but exactly how isn't yet clear. During that celebratory year, there were a number of organizations across the state that took note of the Centennial. The most visible public events took place in Dallas and Fort Worth, but there were other forms of recognition going on as well. Scott Barker has noted: "I discovered that lots of other things were going on across the state to mark the centennial year. Significant books appeared, including The State of Texas Book: One Hundred Years of Progress, edited by Arthur Waldo Stickle and published in 1937 by The Capital Printing Company, Austin. Then there was The Historical Encyclopedia of Texas, published by the Texas Historical Society in 1936. Its full title was The Historical Encyclopedia of Texas / Prospectus of the Historical Encyclopedia of Texas. Historical. Educational. Geographical. Industrial. Biographical. Professional. Agricultural. Pictorial. Cavalcade of Texas. One Hundred Years of Progress Illustrated. Could Christy's painting have been intended to illustrate a publication like one of these? I think more likely it was commissioned as a publicity poster, book illustration or program cover by an organization or municipality (other than Dallas) that wanted to contribute something to the 1936 centennial celebration effort." (Barker to Berardi, October 4, 2021)

    We are grateful to the following who generously shared their time, expertise, candid opinions, and research in the effort to solve this most compelling puzzle: Scott Barker, Wallace O. Chariton, Jon Frembling (Amon Carter Museum), Michael Grauer, Brad Hamilton, Mary Saffell (Texas Christian University, Mary Couts Burnett Library), and Elizabeth Sica and Elaine Stomber. (Howard Chandler Christy Papers, College Archives, Skillman Library, Layfayette College)


    More information about Howard Chandler Christy, also known as Christy, Howard Chandler, .

    Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000.

    Condition Report*: Losses and creases throughout stabilized by a thin layer of varnish. Under UV exam, there does not appear to be inpaint. Scattered craquelure. Yellowed varnish.
    Framed Dimensions 59.5 X 40.625 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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