J.C. Leyendecker

J.C. Leyendecker was America’s most popular illustrator from W.W. I to 1940s. Did hundreds of Saturday Evening Post covers and ads. He was a solitary person who left no personal papers. Gibson showed the patrician American woman; Leyendecker the man. Born in 1874 in Germany and immigrated with his family to Chicago. Went to the Art Institute in Chicago.
In 1896 he won first prize in The Century magazine poster contest. Parrish came in second. He overshadowed his brother Frank, who was a great artist himself but without the visceral energy. Family had the immigrant mentality that one person had all the talent, so pour the time and resources into that person.
Leyendecker studied in Paris, where the schools were still talking about him 20 years later. He and Frank set up a studio in Chicago, then moved to NY. J.C. and Frank were inseparable; Rockwell tells of seeing them on street dressed in straw hats, black and white saddle shoes, double-breasted blue blazers, canes, walking in lock-step. Leyendecker did the first cover for SEP in 1899. Did 321 covers, a number exceeded only by Rockwell.
The Arrow Collar Man was an overnight sensation. He was handsome and well dressed. The figure in the ad received 17,000 pieces of fan mail in the early 1920s — more than Rudolph Valentino. Women sent him gifts and marriage proposals. Broadway plays, poems and songs were written about him.    Leyendecker did a ton of work, countless sketches all the time, but always lived beyond his means, believing that’s what kept an artist hungry.
Leyendecker was handsome and dark toned. He had a studio with a doorman in the Beaux Arts Building, with a separate room for painting.
In 1914, J.C. and his brother Frank (3 years younger) moved to an estate on Mt. Tom Road in New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York. Remington had lived there and Rockwell would soon come there. Rockwell would haunt the train station, hoping for a glimpse of his idol.
Soon, Charles Beach arrived. He became the model for the first Arrow Collar ad. Beach was tall, powerfully built, handsome. Their partnership lasted 50 years. Beach became Joe’s agent, bookkeeper, messenger, apprentice, secretary. After 20 years, Frank moved out and died from drugs at 47.
Joe became more reclusive after Frank died. Faced severe economic hardships in late 1930s. Hadn’t saved money. He died in 1951 at 77 in virtual obscurity.