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J. C. Leyendecker: 04/27/15
J. C. Leyendecker by Michael Schau is a folio that highlights the life and illustration career of the artist. Before Norman Rockwell became famous for his Saturday Evening Post covers, they were done by Leyendecker.
I decided to track down a copy of this book after I saw a post about the artist on Collectors Weekly. The article outlines how a gay artist used homoeroticism to make a successful career as an illustrator. His illustrations were used to sell mens wear and magazines. And that's when I had an aha moment and knew I had to read a book about him. See, I realized I recognized his artwork — specifically his Arrow Collar pieces. My father has copies of some of his work on display at home (part of the fun of being the child of an antiques dealer).
And that brings us to the 1974 book by Michael Schau. It was written at a time when Leyendecker had fallen out of the public eye. The artist had died in 1951 and the author had come across his work when the artist's home was put up for sale. The book was an early attempt to reconstruct the author's life and body of work.
Frankly, though, there is more information online now about the artist than what was available to the author when the book was published. As it was also published at a time when color reproductions were expensive and difficult, there isn't much in the way of Leyendecker's artwork. The examples of his artwork are better represented online, especially on the Tumblr site completely devoted to full color, fairly high resolution reproductions of his paintings.
But I still enjoyed reading the book and rediscovering my childhood. The folio was like so many I read from my father's collection (used mostly for reference for building his inventory). For the casual fan, though, the online materials are better suited.