Name a visual artist who captured American culture—most people will think of Norman Rockwell. True, Rockwell deserves credit for creating iconic images that depict American culture, but he wasn’t the only one.
A precursor to Norman Rockwell was an artist by the name of . Between 1896 and 1950, Leyendecker illustrated over 400 magazine covers. Leyendecker was a regular artist for the Saturday Evening Post, a publication usually associated with Norman Rockwell.
Leyendecker was born in Germany and moved to America (Chicago, Illinois) at a young age in 1882. He attended the Chicago Art Institute, and later traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian. After returning to America around 1899, Leyendecker (and his brother who was also an artist) worked in Chicago, and later, in New York.
Around 1905, Leyendecker was commissioned to produce ads for the Cluett Peabody & Co. for their detachable shirt collar brand called Arrow.
The Arrow Collar Man created by Leyendecker became the symbol of American male fashion—that dignified American man who expressed good taste and manners.
Leyendecker also illustrated posters in support of WWI and WWI . . .
. . . as well as images of ideal American heroes of sports . . .
. . . and many advertisements including Ivory Soap and Kellogg’s.
The 1920s were the pinnacle of his career.
According to Wikipedia:
“As the premier cover illustrator for the enormously popular Saturday Evening Post for much of the first half of the 20th century, Leyendecker’s work both reflected and helped mold many of the visual aspects of the era’s culture in America . . .
“. . . The mainstream image of Santa Claus as a jolly fat man in a red fur-trimmed coat was popularized by Leyendecker . . .
“. . . as was the image of the New Year Baby.
“. . . The tradition of giving flowers as a gift on Mother’s Day was started by Leyendecker’s May 30, 1914 Saturday Evening Post cover depicting a young bellhop carrying hyacinths. It was created as a commemoration of President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of Mother’s Day as an official holiday that year.
. . . Leyendecker was a chief influence upon, and friend of, Norman Rockwell, who was a pallbearer at Leyendecker’s funeral. In particular, the early work of Norman Rockwell for the Saturday Evening Post bears a strong superficial resemblance to that of Leyendecker. While today it is generally accepted that Norman Rockwell established the best-known visual images of Americana, in many cases they are derivative of Leyendecker’s work, or reinterpretations of visual themes established by Rockwell’s idol.”
Leyendecker remained in New York after his beginnings in Chicago. It’s speculated that he was homosexual, and lived with the model who posed for The Arrow Collar Man illustration, a Canadian named Charles Beach. They lived together in Leyendecker’s New Rochelle estate until his death. Leyendecker is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.
- Masterworks by Norman Rockwell at Sotheby’s New York Auction (extravaganzi.com)
- Featured Artist: JC Leyendecker (bryannachapeskie.wordpress.com)
- Bellhop with Hyacinths (skyparlorpulp.wordpress.com)