Allegory versus Authenticity: The Commission and Reception of Howard Chandler Christy’s The Signing of the Constitution of the United States
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Winterthur Portfolio, ISSN: 0084-0416, Vol: 46, Issue: 1, Page: 63-92
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- Arts and Humanities; American Art and Architecture; Art and Design; Theory and Criticism; United States History
Over a four-year period during the Great Depression, Howard Chandler Christy painted three diverse versions of the signing of the Constitution. The last-an enormous canvas 20 by 30 feet-was the most expensive painting commissioned by the federal government to date and took three years to research and complete. This essay examines how and why politics intervened in the commission and creation of Christy's painting and contextualizes the canvas visually and socially. Ultimately, I suggest that Congress's participation in the representation of this pivotal moment in US history was shaped by the looming threat of war in Europe. © 2012 by The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Musuem,Inc. All rights reserved.