Monday, March 23, 2009

J.C. Leyendecker

Today is Joseph Christian (J.C.) Leyendecker's birthday. Or, well, it would be if he were still alive. He was born this day in 1874 and is American's unsung illustrator. Though, I'm happy to say, in recent years he's been experiencing a much needed resurgence.

He was one of the greatest influences on Norman Rockwell, though he is rarely credited as such due to a falling out, of sorts. in fact, Norman used to hang around the train station when he was a lad to catch a glimpse of Joe coming home from the big city.

J.C. lived a very secretive life, so there isn't much in the way of readily available information, but there are two books on him now, one by Michael Shau (1970) and the new one by Cutler and Cutler (2008). It was the secretive lifestyle that served as the wedge driving him and Rockwell apart. Joe's "handler", Charles Beech (model, manager, and lover) always managed to keep the two apart, or to limit their interactions. I suppose Beech didn't appreciate the adoration Rockwell showed Leyendecker. Rockwell took it personally and went on record to say that Leyendecker "couldn't paint a woman with any sense of compassion." It was an attack that suggested Leyendecker was homosexual, without affirmitavely outting him. Despite how he may have been hurt by Joe however, Rockwell purposely stopped one short of Leyendecker's impressive 321 Saturday Evening Post covers in silent reverence.

I've had the great fortune to see many of his originals in person, and he continues to be one of greatest inspirations. I'm slowly collecting his post covers when I can find them, and one of my loftiest ambitions is to own an original painting before I die. I was planning on writing something up on his art, but I think I'll let it speak for itself:


Dalton G Crosthwait said...

I'd love to read that one from the 70's if you have it lying around somewhere.

You are my Leyendecker.
Too bad I suck and lack dedication.

Love you, sweetness.

Brian Bowes said...

Hey, what about the honorific portrait of Ol' JC? Surely you have one of those magical 4X6 panels about...

rompedas said...

Great posting. JcLeyendecker is my inspiration. I love his paintings especially the way he potrayed his subjects (monumental.