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J. C. Leyendecker

I would be remiss to my friends and fans if I didn’t mention a spectacular exhibition of 50 rarely seen original paintings, sketches, magazine covers and advertisements by Joseph Christian Leyendecker (from the Haggin Museum in Stockton; except for the Kellogg’s paintings, most of this collection was donated to the museum by Leyendecker’s sister Augusta) that opened last Friday at the Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton, CA (714/738-6545). The museum is just off the 57 Freeway (Chapman Avenue exit) and is near Fullerton College.

General admission during regular museum hours (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Noon – 4:00 PM; Thursday: Noon – 8:00 PM) is $4. The exhibition ends November 18.

I gave an informal and impromptu talk on Leyendecker and the works present at the exhibition at the opening. The show is an incredible display of sheer virtuosity of drawing, design, brushmanship and color! No other American illustrator ever came close to the quality, elegance and sophistication of Leyendecker’s work.

In his lifetime, Leyendecker created 322 covers (one less than Norman Rockwell — no accident on Norman’s part) for the “Saturday Evening Post” and 48 for “Collier’s”. Yet, despite Leyendecker’s much greater design, painting and drawing abilities, Leyendecker has remained in the shadow of his rival, the much more famous Norman Rockwell (who idolized Leyendecker at the beginning of his career). Quite frankly, I believe that is due to the illegibility of his signature (unlike Rockwell’s signature, which can be clearly read from across the street). There is a chapter in Rockwell’s autobiography, My Adventures As An Illustrator, devoted solely to Leyendecker.

Joseph Christian Leyendecker was born in Germany in 1874. He immigrated to the United States in 1882 with his brother, Frank, who was also a talented artist. Leyendecker’s work also included advertising campaigns with illustrations for Kellogg’s cereals, Arrow shirts (he created the famous Arrow Collar Man), and Kuppenheimer menswear. He also created the concept of the New Year’s Baby. At his peak he was the most successful illustrator in America — if not the world. He died in 1951.

See you there!

1 thought on “J. C. Leyendecker

  1. I wish that it were possible for me to attend the Joseph Leyendecker exhibit. I have one hardback copy collecting some of his work. Though, there is some of his work in another magazine I have, ironically, commemorating the contributions of Norman Rockwell after his passing. Through the years I’ve always marveled at Leyendecker’s unique skill with a brush and was always excited by the rare reproduction of his pencil drawings in art magazines and books covering illustration. To see his originals would be fascinating.
    Anyway, enjoy.


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