J.C. Leyendecker (Joseph Christian) was an illustrator, painter and successful commercial artist. He painted over 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post, including the one below from 1907.
Although his name isn’t as well known as fellow Saturday Evening Post artist Norman Rockwell, he was equally as talented and successful. Norman Rockwell’s style was actually somewhat derivative of Mr. Leyendecker’s style. Joe was a friend and great influence on Norman Rockwell’s style. Mr. Rockwell was later a pallbearer at his funeral in 1951.
Above: A couple of examples of J.C. Leyendecker's magazine cover artwork.
He was born in Germany in 1882, but his family immigrated to Chicago, and as a teenager attended the Chicago Art Institute. Joe and his younger brother Frank enrolled in the Académie Julian in Paris for a year. In 1900, Joe and Frank (and their sister Mary) moved to New York City to advance their careers in advertising and publishing.
While in NYC, Joe landed his most well known gig—illustrating the Arrow Collar Man (above). One of the original models for the “Arrow Collar Man” became his lifelong “best-friend” and manager, Mr. Charles Beach. (note the white carnation boutonniere)
In addition to his long term gig with the Arrow company, Joe landed many great advertising, book and magazine clients such as: Kuppenheimer, Interwoven Socks, Chesterfield cigarettes, Kellogg's, Ivory soap, American Weekly, Collier's, Popular Magazine, Century Illustrated, Ladies' Home Journal and Scribner's magazine.
In 1914, Joe and his siblings, Frank and Mary, moved into a large estate (above) in New Rochelle, New York—along with his best friend Charles.
Above: An illustration from 1905 for Scribner's magazine.
J.C. Leyendecker never married, and lived with Charles Beach most of his life. Allegedly, this talented gentleman lived his teens and twenties as an openly gay man, but became much more private (and reclusive) later in his life.
Above: Artwork for an Arrow Collars advertisement—circa 1912.
During the 1920’s, Joe and Charles hosted many glamorous events at their home. His luxurious lifestyle, during the 1920’s, epitomized the glamour and idealism of his artwork. Sadly, his brother Frank died from a drug overdose in 1924.
A bulk of J.C. Leyendecker’s work had subtle (and not so subtle) homoerotic overtones. He excelled at representing handsome men and beautiful women in his paintings and illustrations.
Above: Mr. Peacock likes the plaid hat and blanket in this illustration. I think the lady looks a bit like the actress Joan Cusick.
During the 1930’s his gigs began to wane. In 1943, he was commissioned for his last Saturday Evening Post cover, which ended his long and lucrative gig that produced 322 covers!
There is no doubt he influenced many artists (obviously Norman Rockwell), and fashion designers with his beautiful and nuanced style. His work still looks relevant and iconic, and continues to influence—even a few PC games. There are a handful of books out on J.C. Leyendecker's life and artwork (right photo-a portrait of Mr. Leyendecker circa 1940's), and a short documentary was released in 2002. I haven’t seen it—have you?
Above: You can purchase this reproduction of Leyendecker's artwork for a Kuppenheimer advertisement.
Mr. Peacock hopes that a feature film dramatizing J.C Leyendecker’s life will eventually be produced…until then I salute this gentleman peacock.
Thank you J.C. Leyendecker for living your life to the beat of your own drum, and for leaving us with such a great archive of your artwork.