- Category : Art-Commercial-artist
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Small (41,49,59)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Healing 1
German-American commercial artist, considered the premier practitioner of commercial art illustration, setting a benchmark of accomplishment in his field during the 20th century. He is best known for his work on the Arrow Collar Man, one of the most successful advertising images in history. His illustrious career spanned the years from 1895 to 1950.
Born in Montabaur, Germany, Leyendecker had a brother, Francis X. (Frank), and a sister, Augusta. The family immigrated to America in 1882. Exhibiting an early talent for painting, he completed his meager education in 1889, and at age 15, he apprenticed himself to J. Manz & Co., a Chicago engraving house. At the end of his work day, he took art lessons at the Chicago Art Institute while diligently saving his money over the next five years. With enough money accumulated, he set off for France with his brother Frank, and both attended the Academie Julian in Paris. The Leyendecker brothers were considered the most talented members of their class, and after their return to America in late 1898, they set up a studio in Chicago. Joseph was soon obtaining top commissions for the illustrations and cover designs he did for the leading publications of the day. In 1899, he did his first cover for the Saturday Evening Post, and over the next 40 years, he did well over 300 more covers, including the famous "New Year’s Baby" series.
Leyendecker’s artwork included many male images that are judged to be blatantly erotic. His male models were athletic, and he used Vaseline to make their muscular bodies glow. His brother Frank’s commercial art specialized in erotic drawings of men as well, and both brothers were gay during a time when open homosexuality was socially unacceptable. In the early 1900s, Joseph met Charles Beach, a model who soon worked exclusively with him. The two lived together as well, and while they were discrete about their private life, it was generally assumed that Beach served as not only a model for Leyendecker, but as live-in lover, business manager and alter ego during their almost 50 years together.
With the popularity of photography, Leyendecker’s career declined, and sadly he was forced to personally seek out work for the last few years of his life. He died of a heart attack on 7/25/1951, New Rochelle, New York, and he was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1977, he was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.