Wednesday, October 14, 2009

F. Earl Christy... Illustrator

F. Earl Christy (who's no relation to Howard Chandler Christy) was an illustrator who produced art work in a variety of mediums. After finishing art school at the Pennsylvania Acadamy of the Fine Arts, he went into commercial illustrations, especially post cards (c 1905-1906)  (he was born in 1883, and died in 1961). During that time he gravitated to illustrations of women -- most particularly illustrations of college women and women in active sports. There is a series of postcards illustrated by Christy featuring women of the Big Four colleges (Yale, Harvard, etc.) which is now quite collectable.  He went on to produce magazine covers of all sorts, including illustrations of well known actresses of the day in particularly flattering poses, book cover art / dust jacket art such as the one shown above which modernized Sir Walter Scott's fair maiden in a completely unbelievable way (Ivanhoe is set in the time of Old England -- Robin Hoodish time) so the wonderful picture hat, the white elbow gloves,  the fur edged wrap, the posy of flowers (well, that could be timely) and the overall attire from the teen years of the 1900's really doesn't apply to the story.

The point of the dust jacket at the time of the book's production, however, wasn't to be historically accurate, but to appeal to the ladies who might spend their pin money on a classic for leisurely reading.  Putting a beautifully executed, modern piece of art illustration on the dust jacket was pure marketing. 

Most likely it worked well too.

Not only could the ladies carry this book around, safe in the knowledge that they were reading  an enlightening work that would in no way lead them astray from their moral upbringing, but it would also be an example to show to the milliner,  the glove maker, the furrier and to the dressmaker for the upcoming season's latest fashion (or, if you weren't as well off, a picture which you could use to make your own pattern for a fancy dress).

Today, the book itself carries very little value (it is, after all, just another reprint copy of a book that was produced in LARGE numbers since it's publication in 1819), but the dust jacket art surrounding the book does have collectable value. So today, just as in the time (somewhere between 1917 and 1923) the dust jacket art is the marketable feature.

And it's still a draw.

It's a picture that could be stared at for quite some time, all the while, finding new subtleties, new bits to look at.
 If you get a chance, click on the picture and take a closer look.

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