Fashionable American illustrator

The most popular and fashionable American illustrator of the early 20th century

J.C. LEYENDECKER (a.k.a. Joseph Christian Leyendecker • 1874 – 1951) developed as a major talent near to the turn of the 20th century and became the most vogue illustrator and reached the apex of his fame and productivity in the 1930s. Quickly established a luxurious painting style to model “The Great Gatsby” ambiance induced by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the roaring 1920s.
He was not a photorealist artist; his work is impressionistic and skillful.

orn in Germany in 1874, in a small village Montabaur at the Rhine Provance. At the age of 8, J.C. Leyendecker immigrated to the United States with his parents and younger brother Frank. The family settled down in Chicago, where Joseph’s mother’s uncle had founded a successful brewing company. There, he spent his adolescence working for an engraving firm, completing his first commercial commission of sixty Bible illustrations. Having both the financial and emotional support of his family, J.C. Leyendecker sought formal artistic training at the Chicago Art Institute, and he later studied in France at the Académie Julian in Paris with his brother, Frank. At this time he was exposed to the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, Chéret, and Alphonse Mucha, a pioneer in the French Art Nouveau movement.

In 1899, he received his first major commission for The Saturday Evening Post magazine, which was the most popular US magazine since 1821 – the catalyst for what developed into his 44 years relationship, his drawings reached millions of people. The collaboration would ultimately produce 322 cover illustrations, many of which transformed into the American household traditions and became iconic images, like his New Year Baby series and portrayal of Santa Claus as a fat jolly man in a big red suit or the giving flowers as a gift on Mother’s Day even originated from J.C. Leyendecker’s on the May 30, 1915 magazine cover, which depicts a young bellhop with hyacinths.

In the 1920s, he was a national celebrity giving lavish parties and entertained luxuriously at his 14-room art-deco mansion, around his sunken gardens on Long Island, New York. Later J.C. Leyendecker was full of contrast. Around 1940, he became an isolated, solitary figure the world was forgetting.

His originals are in museums (Smithsonian, Haggin, NMAI, Vanderbilt, etc.) and for much of demand at fine-art actions throughout the world with an average cost of a quarter-million dollars and collected by celebrities such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, to mention a few.

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