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he American Golden Age

of Illustration strived
between the years of 1890
and 1940 and brought forth some of
the most creative and inspirational
artists of the twentieth century. It
was an era of unparalleled excellence
in regards to its innovations in book,
magazine and advertising designs.
Masters of the arts during the
Golden Age of Illustration created
a visual history that both captured
audiences of the time with intense
images, styles and vividness, and left
a permanent stamp on the life of the
nation that still withstands today.
New techniques in printing were
being developed, paper production
was becoming less costly, railways
facilitated distribution throughout
the continent and the population
was expanding and becoming
progressed. Magazines such as
Harpers Monthly, Colliers and
Scribners took advantage of the
technological developments in
order to expand their enormous
circulations, and likewise, the
publishers of many illustrative
childrens books took the same
advantages on the new techniques
being developed to market their
enterprises. The demand and desire
of artists and illustrators was on a
steady rise during the Golden Age

of American Illustration, and one

of the most prolific, successful and
influential artists of the time was
J.C. Leyendecker. He captivated
his audiences and influenced the art
of illustration with his recognizable
style and powerful and iconic images
of American culture. Leyendecker
transformed the worlds of

illustration, advertising and society

itself with each magazine page.

In 1874, two factors
transformed the art world forever.
The first factor was an Impressionist
art exhibition that was being held for
the first time in Paris, France. The
exhibition itself was resonant to the
art world, because Impressionists

depicted reality in a way that was

never seen before, using elements
like the secondary effects of light and
colour to create compelling pieces of
hart and captivating compositions.
The second reason was the birth
of Joseph Christian Leyendecker.
Joseph Christian, otherwise known
as Joe to his friends and family
was born on March 23rd 1874 in
Montabaur, a small tenth-century
town in the heart of Westerwald,

Germany. He was the third

child born to Peter Leyendecker,
a brewer, and his young wife
Elizabeth Ortseifen Leyendecker.
He was one of four children, having
his older brother Adolf, his older
sister Augusta Mary, and his young
brother Franz Xavier. In 1882, the
Leyendecker family left Montabaur
for Chicago, in hopes of Peter
Leyendecker joining his wifes
uncle at his brewery to help better

the lives of their four children.

Elizabeths uncle, John McAvoy
had built his self-named brewing
company, the McAvoy Brewing
Company, into an immensely
popular beer business. The
Leyendecker family, as the children
were getting older, encouraged the
creative passions of each of their
young sons, often letting them
scrawl sketches and pictures on the
kitchen table clothes. Joseph and
his young brother Franz, otherwise
known as Frank, were both very
close to one another growing up,
sharing in similar interests in the
arts. Leyendecker was extremely
talented for his age, wvith a
natural talent in understanding
composition and design. At the
age of eleven, he had design a
beer bottle label for the McAvoy
Brewing Company. He utilized
the concept that many consumers,
particularly immigrant consumers
who were illiterate, would better
recognize and remember a label
that was graphically interesting
and unique. When Leyendecker
was fifteen, he began to pursue his
artistic aspirations. He began to
apprentice at J. Manz & Company,
an engraving firm in Chicago.
Leyendecker illustrated several
religious pamphlets and Bible
editions since Manz & Company
did many engravings that were
used to accompany biblical tracks.
In 1894, Leyendecker created up to
sixty Bible illustrations that were
published by the Powers Brother
Company. He then began to realize
the importance of an education and
enrolled himself at the Art Institute
of Chicago as he continued to work

with J. Manz & Company as Staff


In the spring of 1896,
Leyendecker impacted the art
world when he won first prize
in a cover design contest for
The Century magazines August
Midsummer Holiday Number.
This was a major milestone for
Leyendecker, since Century was
known as the best American
magazine. The prize for winning
first place was the publication of
the winning image as well as an
issued art print. Leyendeckers
work had become widely acclaimed
and recognized throughout the
United States and throughout
Europe. His print was recreated
into posters that plastered the city
walls of Paris and forever changed
the world of advertising, bringing it
into the dominion of high art. Over
the next five years, Leyendecker
worked himself diligently in order
to save his earnings from his
poster and book designs to help
fund both himself and his younger
brother Frank, to attend Acadmie
Julian, an art school in Paris. The
two Leyendecker brothers finally
arrived in France on September 17th
1896. A year later, Leyendecker held
his first exhibition at the Salon du
Champs de Mars, and in the same
year, he was commissioned to paint
an advertising poster for a Chap
Book by Stone & Kimball-Herbert
S. Stone & Company. Likewise,
he was also given a multiple
commission from The Inland
Printer, an imaginative magazine
for the printing industry, to create
twelve full magazine covers. The
Leyendecker brothers, once Josephs

exhibition finally closed, took their

newly found art knowledge from
Paris back with them to Chicago.
Around the same time, the Curtis
Publishing Company had acquired
The Saturday Evening Post, with
Leyendecker being one of the
first artists to contribute to the
new publication with a series of
illustrations. Within a few months,
he was commissioned to create a
cover for the magazine. His first
Post cover appeared on May 20th
1899. Both Leyendecker brothers
then settled in Chicagos Center

for Creativity, with their tenth floor

suite being a bustling magnet for
aspirating artists. Unfortunately,
Chicago was not the Mecca of the art
world, and in 1900, the Leyendecker
brothers as well as their older sister
Mary, moved to New York City.
The siblings were able to establish
a lavish and fruitful lifestyle, and
Leyendecker was able to negotiate
assignments for The Saturday
Evening Post to create publications
for the magazine on a long-term
basis. He would, throughout his
lifetime, paint Post covers for

decades, easily completing over

more than three hundred covers
with captivating and iconic images,
becoming one of the most popular,
if not the most popular, artist for
one of Americas most popular
magazines. Leyendecker created
iconic images and characters that
are still widely recognized today,
from the portly, white-haired man
dressed in red, Santa Claus, to the
round-faced innocent Baby New
Year. He was also known for this
creation of the Arrow Collar Man, a
handsome icon for idealistic fashion
and lifestyle throughout the 1910s
and 1920s, which virtually created
the concept of branding in modern

Leyendecker understood
that to leave the greatest impact as

an artist meant to create images that

were easily reproduced, immediately
recognized and could be broadly
distributed for a wide audience to
appreciate. His advertisements
were the embodiment of these
concepts. They transformed from
advertisements and cover paintings
into iconic visions that were
representational and symbolic of
the American civilization, as well as
his personal legacy as an advertiser.
Leyendecker developed a particular
style to his work that did not change
when he moved to New York, and
his work was easily identified as
being a Leyendecker because
of it. One of the most prominent
characteristics of his work was
the underlying homoerotic nature
of some of his pieces. Being a

homosexual himself, Leyendecker

did not express his sexual
orientation often, or at all, and it was
often overlooked or widely ignored
during discussion. Leyendecker
was aware that revealing his secret
would threaten his popularity and
success, so he never publically came
out of the closet. He attempted to
mask his sexual orientation in his
work, often having his worked being
characterized as the heterosexual
female adoration for good-looking
men depicted in overly-erotic poses.
In order to create such captivating
illustrations, Leyendecker would
smooth oils on his models in order
to enhance the light reflectivity on
the models bodies. These images
both appealed to the homosexual
and heterosexual communities,

with women fawning over men of

the Leyendecker Look and men
aspiring to be like the stoic and
handsome figures women admired
so much. Leyendecker captured
the ambience of the Beautiful Era
with his images, combining his
images of attractive people with
impressionistic effects of light
and colour, as well as discernable
brushstrokes; he was able to
refine complex, abstract thoughts
into a single, coherent image.
The images that Leyendecker
created always presented the
men as handsome, muscled and
dapper and the women as slender,
elegant and beautiful. Each of the
models was always positioned in
heroic poses, portrayed in perfect
anatomical replication. He also
embellished his images with
props such as medieval swords
and shields, reflecting nostalgia
for past eras. He was able to
incorporate all of these concepts
into diagrammatic compositions
that had a sense of graphic clarity
and style to them. Leyendecker
even developed the technique
pochet, a crosshatched stroke in
oil painting, and innovative trade
secrets, like mixing his linseed oils
with turpentine to create fast-drying
paints. His style of work, from his
beginnings in Chicago with J. Marz
& Company, to his work for The
Saturday Evening Post, though
varied, carried Leyendeckers
signature style throughout, giving
his work an irrefutable visual appeal
and impression.
cover design, the winning contest
entry for the Century magazines

August Midsummer Holiday

Number incorporates both artistic
themes of the period as well as strong
design elements. The piece depicts
strong imagery that coincides
with the Art Nouveau movement,
incorporating free flowing shapes
and imagery, as well as an organic
colour palette. The Century cover
features a young woman standing
in some sort of ethereal space,
surrounded by large red poppy
flowers, cradling a bouquet of

white roses in her white tunic dress.

The woman herself is depicted as a
young, beautiful maiden with long,
free-flowing hair. She is drawn with
delicate and soft features, the lines
that make up her figure being very
soft and voluptuous, depicting an
innocent and feminine aesthetic.
Her clothing, a simple white gown,
displays draping fabric that fits the
models form in a way that is both
elegant and slightly erotic, with
small tints of skin tones around the

models breasts and waist, creating

the idea of transparency around her
feminine features. Like many other
illustrations from the Art Nouveau
period, the female form was depicted
as sensual and graceful, often
having a subtle seductive quality
to it. Women were portrayed with
delicate features and were often
mixed with organic and surreal
shapes that seemed to transcend the
frame of the compositions, creating
ethereal and uncanny shapes for the
eye follow. Within this composition,
Leyendecker incorporated these

concepts subtly into his work,

giving the piece a sense of depth
and visual movement. The models
hair flows behind her in a fashion
that is typical of Art Nouveau, with
organic lines and shapes. Unlike
some other Art Nouveau prints
however, the models hair is confined
within the frame of the piece and
does not break the compositions
boarder. However, Leyendecker
still managed to incorporate this
concept instead with the red poppy
flowers that make up a majority of
the background and parts of the

The poppies add a visual
dynamic to the composition
because they add a strong colour
to the colour palette of the piece.
The entire cover is made up of
muted earth tones like beige and
brown with hints of yellow and
pastel pinks, creating a very airy
and seemingly loose composition.
However, with the addition of
the red poppy flowers, not only
does it give the piece an additional
colour, it also helps anchor the piece
visually and creates a sense of visual
movement within the layout. The
layout of the cover is visually very
stable, the models pose of holding
the bouquet in her gown creating
a visual triangle that leads from
both her hands to her face, which
is the central vocal point of the
composition. The poppy flowers
contribute to the pieces stability by
anchoring the image towards the
top of the layout, preventing it from
visually drifting upward and being
lost. The long stems of the flowers
bring the viewers eyes from the
bouquet in the models arms towards
the top of the layout, where the text
for the magazine is located outside
the frame. In order to lead the eye
to the title, some of the poppies
transcend the boarder of the frame
and actually become parts of the
foreground and cover parts of the
title itself. This adds a sense of depth
within the piece and is more visually
interesting and dynamic. The title
of the magazine itself uses a sense
of scale to create a visual hierarchy
through its placement, according to
the importance of information. The
Century, the publication title, is

depicted as the largest amongst the

type treatment, with Midsummer
Holiday Number in smaller
text beside it. The placement of
Midsummer Holiday Number
is done in a way to visually make it
equal to the publication title, which
adds stability and balance to the
overall layout. Even the placement
and sizes of The and August
contribute to the balance of the
overall composition. The entire
magazine cover as a layout itself is
visually interesting, creating a sense
of movement that leads the viewers
eye throughout the different
elements of the composition,
is captivating in regards to the
imagery, and is a prime example of
the natural talent that Leyendecker
possessed in his trade. His natural
talent for design would bring him to
the forefront of the magazine design
industry, and be his strongest asset
when working with The Saturday
Evening Post.
Over the course of his
lifetime, Leyendecker had created
over three hundred covers for The
Saturday Evening Post, with each
cover depicting a specific theme,
holiday or event that was significant
to the time. Each cover of the Post
was created using stunning imagery
Leyendecker took the design of the
magazine covers to heart and created
unique illustrations for each issue,
using a subtle combination of both
theme and illustration to connection
emotionally with the American
people. He had reinvented the way
Americans celebrated their holidays
and introduced some of the most
elementary themes of advertising

in American culture today. One

of the most iconographic images
that Leyendecker coined was Baby
New Year. He had invented the
notion of a baby ringing in the New
Year in the December 1908 issue
of the Post. His depiction of Baby
New Year was both charming and
fanciful, adorning the covers of the
Post for almost forty-some years.
The American people began to
incorporate Baby New Year as
a tradition and would anticipate
a new illustration every January.
Leyendeckers New Years Baby
would soon become as popular as
his depiction of Santa Claus and
would soon be accepted worldwide
as a symbol of beginning the New
Year with a fresh and revitalizing
start. Not only was Baby New
Year a symbol of a refreshing start
for the New Year, Leyendecker
also used him to depict certain
social and political topics, like his
cover for the 1931 Post, showing
an industrialized Baby New Year
working hard to put together the
plague that adorns the page. The
piece itself displays themes of hard
work and diligence during a time
when the American economy was
suffering at its worst and work
was scarce and different to come
by. Baby New Year served as a
reminder to the American people to
continue working hard and to not
loose faith within difficult times.
Another of Leyendeckers
most widely acclaimed iconographic
characters in his Post illustrations
is his ever-famous depiction of
Santa Claus. The images of Santa
Claus have evolved and changed
throughout the years after the time

of the real Saint Nicolas, but it was

Leyendecker to truly uniformed
and branded what many people
know Santa Claus to be today.
Leyendecker evidently turned
Santa into a brand unto himself. He
took his description directly from
Clement Clarkes 1823 poem, Twas
the Night Before Christmas. He
portrayed Santa as a rounded fellow
with rosy cheeks and jolly belly,
adorned from head to toe in red and
white. This image of Santa Claus
soon became the standard for his
depiction and has been thereafter
used in several different advertising
campaigns for a plethora of different
brands and corporations, including
companies like Coca-Cola and
Macys. Each of Leyendeckers
depictions of Santa Claus portrays
him as a compassionate and gentle
man, with a love for children and
a charming nature and admirable
spirit and attitude. Often depicted
with a satchel of toys and goodies,
Leyendeckers Santa embodied the
concept of the Christmas spirit and
reinforced the good will of giving
and a sense of childhood fantasy.
Each of the covers created
by Leyendecker throughout his
time working with The Saturday
Evening Post incorporate several
different design elements that
create compelling, captivating and
memorable magazine covers. Many
of his layouts for the Post utilize the
entire layout of the cover to tell a
visual story. Rather than confining
the images into the frame beneath
the publication name, Leyendecker
utilizes a manipulation of space
compositions that presented a

sense of depth and space within

the two-dimensional layout. Often
times, aspects of the illustration
would flow over into the title space
and come above portions of the
title in the foreground. Though the
titles were not completely show, the
placement of the illustrations over
the text was strategically conceived
in order to only show enough of
the publication name to allow the
audience to piece the title of the
publication themselves. Each cover
was unique in its illustration as well
as the narrative that it told, all the
while still corresponding to the
issues monthly theme. Leyendecker
used specific colour palettes for each
season and reused a combination
of iconic images throughout his
various covers to create relatable
themes that would be associated
with different holidays. Springtime
issues of the Post, which included
Easter, and Mothers Day, often
utilized bright and vivid colour
schemes, using bright yellows,
pastel pinks and luscious greens.
Images of flowers and nature motifs
like different types of woodland
animals kept an ongoing theme of
femininity, freshness and beauty
throughout each of the springtime
issues. Likewise, summertime
issues often incorporated images
for Independence Day, such as
firecrackers, the United States flag,
and images relating back to the time
of the Revolutionary War, as well
as various summertime activities
such as going to the beach. Some of
Leyendeckers Post covers not only
told the theme of that months issue,
some also depicted narratives and
seemed to give glimpses into bits of

American life. In his 1917 September

cover, Leyendecker depicts a young
soldier attempting to talk to a young
woman. The cover presents a subtle
narrative that is both charming
and slightly humorous. The young
man is dressed in his military
uniform and is seen attempting
to speak to the young woman
standing in the scene with him,
however the soldiers expression
seemed a bit bemused, while the
young womans expression seemed
to be, at best, unimpressed but
charmed. The entire piece as well
as the interactions between both
characters is tied together by the
fact that the soldier is reading out
of a French-to-English dictionary.
This allows the viewer to tie in
each of the compositions elements
and develop a compelling and
charming narrative. Leyendecker
was not only a master at magazine
cover composition, but he was also
a master advertiser, allowing his
illustrations to create a narrative
to capture his audiences attention
and sell them a lifestyle. One of
Leyendeckers most recognized and
notable advertisements were his

advertisements for Arrow Collars

and Shirts, and his iconographic
figure, the Arrow Collar Man.
The Arrow Collar Man, the
icon for Arrow Collars and Shirts
was what Leyendecker portrayed
to be the unique symbol of Arrow
Collar products; however, the
Arrow Collar Man was Not simply
a man, but a manly man, a handsome
man an ideal American Man.
Leyendeckers concept of the Arrow
Collar Man to represent the ideal
American Man was the first step
into creating the brand that was
Arrow Collars. The Arrow Collar
Man was a refined, handsome, stoic
character that was often depicted
in stylish and lavish environments
or participating in high-class
activities. Arrow Collar Man was
the first American sex symbol
and Leyendecker utilized this sex
appeal that his character portrayed
to advertise Arrow Collars as
both a product and a lifestyle. He
utilized semi-erotic poses and
risqu situations to better advertise
the products presented. Along with
the sexualized form of advertising,
Leyendecker also utilized themes

of high-end society and elegant

socialites in some of his layouts in
order to market a lifestyle along with
the product that was being sold.
In this particular advertisement
for Arrow Collars and Shirts,
models Phyllis Frederic and Brian
Donlevy are portrayed as a high
society couple dancing together.
The advertisement creates a sense
of moody atmosphere through its
use of line and colour within the
composition. The couple is featured
standing in a standard ballroom
dancing pose, with the man of the
pair looking forward, while the
woman glances away, averting her
eyes from the mans figure. The
composition of the figures together
creates a balanced frame within the
piece, which stabilizes it and gives it
structure. The visual lines that make
up the frame of the couples dancing
position not only add stability to the
illustration, but also helps lead the
viewers eye to each of the elements
in the layout. Along with the lines
that the layout presents, colour also
contributes to the advertisements
moody and intimate atmosphere.
A majority of the advertisement

is in solid black, all accept for the

woman in her pale blue dress, and
for the mans white shirt, gloves
and corsage. The minimal use of
colour adds a bit of intimacy and
mystery to the layout, seemingly
depicting the couple dancing in a
dark, intimate space together. The
man in the advertisement seems to
blend into the background, adding
a sense of mystery and drama to his
stoic appearance. This concept is
reinforced with the subtle way the
woman is not looking at him and is
rather glancing away. This portrayal
of the Arrow Collar Man not only
successfully advertises the product,
but is also advertises the Arrow
Collar Man as a brand, presenting
him as an elegant, handsome and
mysterious stranger who has the
ability to sweep a woman off her
After Leyendecker stopped
creating covers for The Saturday
Evening Post and advertisements
for Arrow Collars & Shirts, he
turned some of his attention to lesser
known magazines and publications,
as well as book covers, illustrations
and posters. He is known for
several of his posters advertising for
the United States Military, creating
advertising posters for the Navy as
well as the Marine Corp. Staying
alongside the concept of sex appeal
that Arrow Collar Man instilled in
much of Leyendeckers work, many
of his advertisements for the military
utilize similar advertising concepts
in order to appeal to the masses. In
this poster ad for the United States
Navy, four sailors are readying and
loading a canon on what is assumed
to be a ship towards one of their

enemy vessels. Two of the four

sailors are portrayed shirtless and
barefoot as they prepare to load the
large canon, while the two other
sailors prep and ready the machine
for firing. The advertisement
utilizes themes similar to the Arrow
Collar Man advertisements in the
concept that it showcases a lifestyle
along with its original intention.
The poster itself also depicts the
sailors in a blatantly erotic situation,
showing them bending and flexing,

their muscles being highlighted

and displayed with much central
focus. The placement of the sailors,
as well as their body language also
helps reinforce the advertisement
visually. The two sailors loading
the canon create a visual triangle,
starting from the top of the head
of the sailor who is cranking the
canon, leading down his gaze to
the sailor holding the bullet to load
into the canon, then, following the
trajectory of the bullets placement

on the page, across the layout

towards the beginning of the text
of the advertisement, then back to
the initial start point. It creates a
stable and balanced advertisement
that is both interactive, leading
the viewers gaze around the entire
composition in a full circle and
visually interesting.
Leyendecker, over his
lifetime, left a lasting impression on
not only the art world, but on the
world at large. He had created some
of Americas most iconic images and
most recognizable advertisements
of his time, changing the world
of illustration and design forever.
Leyendecker was truly integral
to American society and cultural
history. He revamped and changed
the way Americans celebrated their
holidays, creating images for The
Saturday Evening Post that have
transcended the test of time and
have embedded themselves into
American culture for centuries after
their creation. Leyendecker gained
eternal life through his artwork
as Americas greatest icon-maker,

announcer of mass advertising,

leader of the American Imagists,
and a master of the magazine cover.
Joseph Christian Leyendecker
was Americas golden boy of
Illustration, gracing modern society
with captivating imagery, powerful
compositions and unmistakably
iconic characters that have forever
changed the modern world of
illustration and art.

Culter, Laurence S. and Judy Goffman Culter. J.C. Leyendecker.

Abrams, New York. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2008. Print.
Edmonds, Richard. A Great American Ullustrator of his Age;
Books J.C. Leyendecker by Laurence S. Cutler and Judy Goffman
Cutler. Abrams, pouds 25. Reviewed by Richard Edmonds.
Birminghamg Post (2008). Lexis Nexus. Web. 12 February 2011.
Genocchico, Benjamin. Lost to Time, an Illustrator is
Rediscovered. The New York Times. (2009): Section WE; Column
0; Westchester Weekly Desk; Art Review. Lexis Nexus. Web. 12
February 2011.
J.C. Leyendecker. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 1 February
2011. Web. 3 February 2011.