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J.C. Leyendecker in the Golden Age of Illustration

February 24 - April 20, 2008

 

The Huntsville Museum of Art is proud to present the exhibition J.C. Leyendecker in the Golden Age of Illustration, organized by The Haggin Museum, Stockton, California, on view February 24 through April 20, 2008. (right: J.C. Leyendecker, Kellogg's Kid-Boy Scout, c. 1912-1917, oil on canvas)

Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951) may not be as well known as his fellow American illustrator Norman Rockwell, but during his long career his work was some of the most popular of its day. Born at Montabour in Southwest Germany, Leyendecker came to America with his parents in 1882 and settled in Chicago.

He soon became an art student and it was along the Parisian streets, ablaze with the vibrant poster art of Jules Cherét (1836-1933), Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901), that Leyendecker came to the realization that a talented artist could gain both critical acclaim and monetary rewards as a commercial illustrator.

J. C. Leyendecker did his first cover artwork for Collier's magazine in 1898. Over the next ten years he would produce 47 more.

Just before the turn-of-the-century, he received a commission to produce an image for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. This rather undistinguished image that illustrated a story on the Spanish American War for the Post's May 20 issue was the first of 322 covers he would produce for the magazine between 1899 and 1943-more than any other artist, including Norman Rockwell.

Leyendecker's popularity at the Post was due to his ability to convey the essence of everyday life in America through artwork that reflected his unique sense of drama, romanticism, and humor. Another key to his commercial success was his distinctive style, which combined bright colors with bold, heavy brushwork.

Another important commission for Leyendecker was from Kellogg's, the breakfast food manufacturer. As part of a major advertising campaign, he created a series of 20 "Kellogg's Kids" to promote Kellogg's Corn Flakes. These images of babies, small children, and teenagers are as winsome and winning today as when they were created over 90 years ago.

This exhibition of paintings, sketches, studies, and associated ephemera provides new generations with the opportunity to experience the artwork that mainstream America took to its heart during the first half of the 20th century.

On March 6, 2008 at 7 pm there will be a docent-led tour for J.C. Leyendecker in the Golden Age of Illustration.

The exhibition is part of an eight city national tour over a two and a half year period containing approximately fifty paintings and sketches, original magazine covers and advertisements from the collection of the Haggin Museum. The tour was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

About Smith Kramer Fine Art Services

Founded in 1981 by David Smith, Smith Kramer Fine Art Services has enjoyed twenty-five years of growth in serving the art community. In partnership with the institutions and collectors, Smith Kramer Fine Art Services budgets, markets, crates, insures, transports, and handles all services of the exhibition from concept to completion. -- edited text, courtesy Smith Kramer Fine Art Services. Also see The David Smith Story: Sharing the Arts (11/14/97).

 

(above: J.C. Leyendecker, Kuppenheimer Suits Advertisement, Man & Porter, 1921, oil on canvas)

(above: J.C. Leyendecker, The Saturday Evening Post, Barking up the Wrong Turkey, 1926, magazine)

 

(above: J.C. Leyendecker, Claire Chennault of the WWII Flying Tigers, 1944, oil on canvas)

 

 

Object labels from the exhibition

Frank Xavier Leyendecker, Portrait of J.C.'s Brother
1896
oil on canvas
 
This portrait of the artist's brother was done when the two were students at the Académie Julian in Paris. In the Spring of 1897, the portrait was shown at the Académie Julian and was the cover image for the exhibition catalog.
 
 
People's Bible History
Cover
1893
watercolor
 
These three preliminary study images were part of Leyendecker's work for an illustrated edition of the Bible that was published by The Henry O. Shepard Co. in 1894. The final, published version differed slightly from this preliminary work.
 
 
People's Bible History
Return of the Prodigal Son
1893
ink wash
 
 
People's Bible History
Rebekah at the Well
1893
ink wash
 
 
Admiral Stark
1944
oil on canvas
 
One of a number of American military leaders done by Leyendecker for the Timkin Roller Bearing Company's War Bond campaign in 1944. These images appeared in magazine advertisements and posters that were produced in two sizes. This painting depicts Admiral Harold R. Stark, United States Navy, who oversaw naval operations during the invasion of Normandy.
 
 
Claire Chennault of the WWII Flying Tigers
1944
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Elizabeth and David Rea
 
One of a number of American military leaders done by Leyendecker for the Timkin Roller Bearing Company's War Bond campaign in 1944, this painting depicts Major General Claire L. Chennault, commander of the famous Flying Tigers fighter squadron in China during WWII.
 
 
Enlist Today, US Marines, Stockton
1918
ink on paper
 
Enlistment posters such as this were produced by the US Government with all but the last line printed. This was done by a job printer in the city where the recruitment office was located, in this case Stockton, California. This is "Version #1" of the popular WWI poster. The alternate "Version #2" had a smaller central image and was surrounded by 16 B & W photo reproductions of Marine life. The poster was also reproduced in 1918 with another title, Soldiers of the Sea.
 
 
Advertisement for Chicago Evening Post
1898
ink on paper
 
Like many daily newspapers, the Chicago Evening Post published a magazine supplement, such as the issue advertised in this poster by Leyendecker.
 
 
The Intelligent Baby
1899
ink on paper
 
One of a number of posters Leyendecker did for various Chicago-area literary magazines. This poster was designed for Up To Date magazine. Leyendecker produced four posters for this magazine in 1899. The 25¢ charge for a copy of the Leyendecker illustration would be the equivalent of about $5.50 today.
 
 
Weapons for Liberty
1917
ink on paper
 
Leyendecker's most dramatic WWI poster image, this illustration was also featured as the cover of the March 2, 1918 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.
 
 
Arrow Collar Study
1923
oil on canvas
 
Leyendecker was hired in 1905 by Cluett, Peabody & Co.'s advertising manager, Charles Connoly, to create a new image for the firm's products. He created his famous "Arrow Collar" men for the company over the next 25 years. This work is a preliminary study for Arrow's 'Par' Style Collar -- The Artistocrat of Arrow Collars. The finished painting differs slightly from the preliminary version. There are four known preliminary oil sketches that preceded the final painting. The final painting was utilized for marketing needs that included magazine advertisements and merchandising placards for stores.
 
 
Kuppenheimer Suits Advertisement, Man & Porter
1921
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by The Men's Wearhouse
 
Although this illustration was utilized in many national publications, it was always published with a limited palette of only two colors. This is another image painted for Kuppenheimer & Co., which was eventually purchased by The Men's Wearhouse in 1997.
 
 
Kuppenheimer Suits Advertisement
1918
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by The Men's Wearhouse
 
This painting was one of many Leyendecker did for the Chicago-based firm of Kuppenheimer & Co., a leading manufacturer of men's clothing from 1876 to 1982.
 
 
Man in Long Underwear
1915
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Lynne Temme and Barbara Bahler
 
Chicago's Cooper Underwear Company, precursor of Jockey International, used Leyendecker's work in its 1911 national advertising campaign to promote its new 'Klosed Krotch' one-piece long underwear.
 
 
Advertisement for Interwoven Socks
circa 1922-1923
oil on canvas
 
This commanding imagery was utilized in magazine advertising and marketing posters for The Interwoven Stocking Company of New Brunswick, New Jersey.
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Boy About 8-10
1915
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Haggin Social Club
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Boy about 5-6
1916
oil on canvas
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Boy About 5-7
1917
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by John and Helen Talbot
 
The cereal and strawberries in this boy's bowl have been cut and pasted onto this painting from another work. The advertisements utilizing this image appeared with and without strawberries in the cereal.
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Girl About 12
1917
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
The Haggin collection contains 14 of the 20 paintings that Leyendecker did for Kellogg's between 1912 and 1918.
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Teen Boy
1916
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Girl About 8-10
1916
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Boy About 2
1915
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Teenage Girl
1915
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Boy About 5-6
1915
oil on canvas
 
Kellogg's Kid, Girl About 6-7
1917
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Baby in Highchair
1915
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
Kellogg's Kid, Boy Scout
1917
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Philip and Anne Berolzheimer
 
Although Norman Rockwell is more closely associated with the Boy Scouts, Leyendecker featured young Scouts on posters, magazine covers and in advertising. The word "WAXTITE" refers to the wax paper inner packaging that, according to Kellogg's "keeps the fresh, good flavor in-and all other flavors out."
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Girl About 4-5
1916
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored in memory of Susan E. Moore by Philip and Anne Berolzheimer
 
 
Kellogg's Kid, Baby Wearing Bib
1915
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Junior Women's Group
 
Collier's Cover, Admiral Togo
September 3, 1904
oil on canvas
 
Admiral Heihachiro Togo was Commander in Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Russo-Japanese War and defeated the Russian forces at Port Arthur in 1904.
 
 
The Popular Magazine Cover, Out or Safe?
May 1910
oil on canvas
 
Leyendecker posed this perennial baseball question on several magazine cover illustrations, including this one for The Popular Magazine.
 
 
Collier's Cover, Policeman and Racecar
January 8, 1916
oil on canvas
 
Leyendecker produced 44 covers for Collier's over a twenty-year period beginning in 1898. The magazine ceased publication in 1957.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Airships Circling Baby New Year
January 2, 1932
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Mrs. Robert N. McKee
 
This representation of the New Year as a cherub/baby is an icon of American imagery and was a Leyendecker creation. He first employed it for The Saturday Evening Post's 1908 New Year's issue and repeated it, in a host of variations, over the next 36 years.
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
The American Weekly, New Year's Baby 1950
January 1, 1950
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Robert and Marie Whittington
 
This New Year's Baby was done for William Randolph Hearst's Sunday magazine, The American Weekly. He was working on another New Year's cover for the same publication when he suffered his fatal heart attack in 1951.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, St. Valentine, 1924
February 16, 1924
oil on canvas
 
Prior to 1926, the cover art for The Saturday Evening Post was reproduced using only two inks, red and black, and Leyendecker's covers from this period lack the variegated palette of later works for the magazine.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Older Woman Chasing Cupid on Leap Year Day
February 29, 1908
oil on canvas
 
Playing upon the old tradition of unmarried women being allowed to propose marriage on Leap Year, Leyendecker featured a "bachelorette" chasing a terrified cupid in this February 29 cover illustration.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Queen of Spring
May 23, 1931
oil on canvas
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Easter Angel in Top Hat
April 3, 1915
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by The Richard Haines Family
 
Leyendecker grew many types of flowers on the grounds of his New Rochelle home and as the different varieties came into bloom, he would create detailed oil studies of them. If he then received a commission in the dead of winter to paint a cover image that featured spring flowers, he simply turned to his "floral database" for inspiration.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Welcome Home
November 28, 1914
oil on canvas
 
The actual covers of The Saturday Evening Post were approximately half the size of
Leyendecker's original paintings. The pencil marks on the paintings were part of the
process of photographically reducing the image prior to printing.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, War Refugees
October 26, 1918
oil on canvas
 
Painted for the cover of an issue two weeks before the Armistice that ended WWI, this image portrays the plight of Europe's refugees.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Baseball Catcher
May 15, 1909
oil on canvas
 
Unlike Rockwell, Parrish and other illustrators who employed photography to help them create their images, Leyendecker preferred to paint from life. The photograph shows Leyendecker in his New York studio sketching a model dressed and posed as a catcher.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Romeo and Juliet
June 8, 1929
oil on canvas
 
Leyendecker's first full color cover for The Saturday Evening Post was published on April 3, 1926. His paintings came alive with color after that date.
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Running Redcoat
June 28, 1930
oil on canvas
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Uncle Sam at the Helm
July 4, 1936
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Mrs. Robert N. McKee
 
Much of Leyendecker's cover art was unabashedly patriotic. Many of his paintings recalled the nation's conflicts from the Revolution through the First World War. Others featured Uncle Sam in various guises- some humorous, some serious. This Fourth of July issue cover depicts Uncle Sam at the helm of the ship of state during the Great Depression.
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Civil War Veterans
May 24, 1913
oil on canvas
 
Leyendecker used two Union Veterans in their Grand Army of the Republic uniforms for this 1913 Memorial Day cover. The holiday began in the late 1860s as a day of remembrance for those who died in the Civil War.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Fall Foxhunting
October 19, 1929
oil on canvas
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Boy Reciting for Teacher
September 18, 1909
oil on canvas
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Bobbing for Apples
November 1, 1913
oil on canvas
 
The traditional Halloween game of bobbing for apples is rooted in Roman-Celtic Britain. The apple was associated with the Roman goddess of fertility, Pamona. At harvest festivals young unmarried men and women would compete to grab a floating apple with only their mouth. The first to do so, according to custom, would be the first to marry in the coming year.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Barking up the Wrong Turkey
November 27, 1926
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Ross and Marilyn Bewley
 
Leyendecker often combined his unique sense of humor with everyday events to which the American public could easily relate. Here a young boy is homeward bound with the Thanksgiving feast, only to be assailed by a pack of local mongrels.
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Christmas Minstrels
December 21, 1929
oil on canvas
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Medieval Merry Christmas
December 25, 1926
oil on canvas
Conservation sponsored by Vern and Marge Hellwig
 
The Saturday Evening Post knew that Leyendecker could always be counted on for strong holiday imagery. From the turn of the 20th century through the mid-1930s, the American public came to anticipate his New Year's, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas covers.
© Curtis Publishing, Inc.
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, St. Valentine, 1924
1924
magazine
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Baseball Catcher
1909
magazine
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Uncle Sam at the Helm
1936
magazine
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post, Barking up the Wrong Turkey
1926
magazine
 
 
The Saturday Evening Post
(Last cover done by J.C. Leyendecker for The Saturday Evening Post)
January 2, 1943
magazine
 
In 1941, The Saturday Evening Post began moving in a new editorial direction and many of the regular artists and writers were phased out in favor of newer and/or younger talents. Leyendecker's last cover was published in January 1943 and featured his signature New Year's baby in a G.I.'s helmet battling the symbols of Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
 

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:

 

TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:

J. C. Leyendecker - The Great American Illustrator is a 2002 video from Kultur Video With hundreds of paintings for The Saturday Evening Post and other publications, J.C. Leyendecker was one of the most successful illustrators of his time. This 45 minute video biography explores the warmth and imagination that marked his work. Kultur Video says: J.C. Leyendecker was the most successful illustrator of his time, creating over 500 paintings for magazine covers - including 322 for the Saturday Evening Post - and advertisements that made his clients famous. His paintings portrayed a lifestyle that resonated with millions of Americans. Even when depicting those issues that mattered most - a woman's right to vote, the economic woes of the Depression, victory over Nazi Germany - he never employed a heavy hand or a dark mood; his images were always full of human warmth and imagination. Leyendecker told the story of consumerism as if it were lyric poetry; replacing the turbulence of cultural history with a beauteous glance, a beguiling child, a muscular vision, or a gentle hand."

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