J.C. Leyendecker was a classically trained artist who earned a living as an illustrator, but his talent could easily match that of any fine artist in the history of art. The guys fluid and accurate drawing skills were just phenomenal, and that’s really the foundation of any good illustration or painting you know.
His artistic training took him and his brother (who became a lesser known illustrator) to Paris, where he witnessed first hand the art nouveau style and the imagery of Alphonse Mucha and Toulouse-Lautrec. His early work reflects these influences, but it wasn’t until years later that he perfected his own style which became famous as the “Leyendecker look” characterized by those chiselled and confident, yet free-flowing painterly brush strokes which I just love.
Leyendecker gave early American magazine covers and advertisements a distinctive look which dove-tailed with, and in many ways became representational of, the roaring twenties and the “Gatsby era”.
Among his many advertising clients early on were the House of Kuppenheimer, the U.S. Armed forces, Chesterfield cigarettes, and Kelloggs cereal. My favorite illustrations however are the classic ones he did for Arrow shirts and collars. Leyendecker created the “Arrow Collar Man” which was used by the Arrow company for many years.
Because these ad images were not shot directly from Leyendecker's original oil paintings, it might be difficult to appreciate the skill with which these figures were rendered. The image of the female head at the top of the post gives a better idea of the total and complete mastery of brushwork that Leyendecker possessed.
Next time we'll look closer at his working methods and wallow in some of his fantastic paintings!