The name Holly Chandler Christy, the nom de plume of Holly Longuski, pays homage to the famous illustrator and painter Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952). It also hints at what may have been a hidden identity for him, and for Longuski.
Longuski's mother, Elise Ford, modeled as a nude wood nymph for Christy’s eye-popping 1936 Café des Artistes mural (recently restored for The Leopard at Café des Artistes in New York). An aspiring actress who later became a respected painter, Ford was also Christy’s student and research assistant—and, Longuski believes, Christy’s secret lover.
While having a mistress was fairly common, unwed motherhood was frowned upon in proper society. But Holly—as a child, teen, and adult—long wanted to solve the mystery of her missing father, and suspected that Christy, who she adoringly called “Poppy,” was more than a doting family friend. The resulting quest is now the basis for her as yet unpublished memoir The Secret Life of Howard Chandler Christy, Painter of the Café des Artistes Murals. It’s filled with vivid and impressionistic recollections that offer intimate knowledge of one of America’s leading popular artists.
I am an admirer of Christy’s vibrant art, especially his coverage of the Spanish-American War in drawings of the Rough Riders campaign. His stylish “Christy Girl,” along with Charles Dana Gibson’s “Gibson Girls” and Harrison Fisher’s “Fisher Girls,” garnered fame and fortune. He’s also the creator of several iconic WWI posters, and with Ford’s assistance, he painted the historic Signing of the Constitution, which resides in the congressional stairwell of the United States Capitol.