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J. C. Leyendecker: America’s ‘Other’ Illustrator
January 31 – May 10, 2009

Joseph Leyendecker (1874 – 1951) was one of the most popular artists of his day. Though not as well known as his fellow American illustrator Norman Rockwell, his work was recognized by millions of fans and was in constant demand by publishers and advertisers. The fifty paintings and sketches, and original magazine covers and advertisements in the exhibition J. C. Leyendecker: America’s ‘Other’ Illustrator provide new audiences with the opportunity to experience artwork that mainstream America took to its heart during the first half of the 20th century.

Born in Germany, Leyendecker moved to Chicago as a child, where his first formal training was as an apprentice in a print shop. He studied in Paris and found inspiration in the poster art of Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha, developing his own trademark vibrant colors and slashing brushwork. In 1910, Leyendecker moved to New Rochelle in Westchester County. On Mount Tom Lane he built a home and many of the flowers in his works were based on oil studies of blooms in his garden.

Illustration was thriving at the turn of the twentieth century. Paintings were commercially printed to illustrate and to sell publications and products. Photographs, still black and white, could not compete with good illustration art for energy, drama, and eye-catching color. Leyendecker is remembered today for magazine covers, an evolving modern form of marketing he helped elevate to high artistry. He was celebrated for his special holiday illustrations for New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas issues of The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s magazine, Century Illustrated and many others. Ironically, one of his greatest admirers was his neighbor Norman Rockwell. Where Rockwell is remembered for scenes of family and farm life, Leyendecker painted scenes of intense sensuality. His debonair Arrow Collar Man came to be regarded as the ideal male.

Courtesy of The Haggin Museum, Stockton, California
Tour development by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Missouri

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