Arthur N. Christie was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, and studied at Pratt Institute, the American Artists’ School, with Stefan Hirsch, and later with Hans Hofmann in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts.(1) Christie began doing abstract painting about 1931. From 1937 to 1941, he exhibited with the American Abstract Artists. During the late 1920s and 1930s Christie worked as a designer of bank notes and currency. Among his accomplishments were designs for the national currency of Panama, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Turkey. He later worked for the New York office of civil defense.
Christie’s paintings and drawings indicate his thorough acquaintance with Hans Hofmann’s theories of space and balance within the picture plane. Both Regatta and Kilimanjaro draw from the natural world for their motifs, but the highly abstracted, rhythmic line with which they are executed indicates Christie’s thorough conversion to modernist aesthetics and reflects ideas expressed in one of his few extant statements: “In presenting a work in the abstract we are manipulating hard/edge form. The evolving idea is couched in the landscape of form. And is transmitted by a plastic motility. Inherent in a calligraphy of form and/or line/the subliminal is indicated.”(2)
In his later work, Christie explored Abstract Expressionism. In several highly detailed sketches for sculpture, he explored the juxtaposition of open and solid form using wire and wood. Christie did a large number of sketches from life and was fascinated with the human form in motion. He thought of himself as an artistic researcher and for a series of drawings designed a situation to test the validity of artistic transcription. He invited a dancer to improvise before two artists who made abstract sketches of the dancer’s movements. A second dancer was then asked to use the drawings as a basis for duplicating the improvisation. The artists could then assess the effectiveness with which they had captured the postures, movements, and rhythmic changes of their subject.
A resident of New York in midcareer, Christie subsequently moved to Philadelphia where his paintings were occasionally featured in group exhibitions.
1. Apart from a few gallery announcements and an undated review of an exhibition inthe Arthur N. Christie Papers, Archives ofAmerican Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., little published material exists from which to reconstruct Christie’slife and career. Even Christie’s papers offer little substantive evidence. Among them are his handwritten quotes by other artists,critics, and literary figures, and a large number of drawings, most of which are undated.
2. From handwritten notes entitled “These are the researches of A.N. Christie,” which appear to be a draft for a catalogue statement; see Christie Papers, Archives of American Art.
Virginia M. Mecklenburg The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection: American Abstraction 1930 – 1945 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1989)