Monday, January 12, 2009


Leyendecker's early style -- a crosshatched brush stroke that turned soft surfaces into sharp planes -- reinforced Beach's chiseled good looks. When his dynamic crosshatching faded into softer fills, Leyendecker enhanced the manliness of his subjects in other ways: He lit a single light and oiled the muscles of his models for dramatic contouring. Decades before feminist Laura Mulvey wrote about the male gaze objectifying women, Leyendecker turned his gaze toward handsome men and created widely circulated icons of masculinity.
(Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times)

Note that these are more than just realistic hands. Leyendecker is not simply copying a photograph he likes. He records visual data about shapes and colors and shadows, but he is also seeking out nature's designs and patterns. He is establishing priorities about what "feels" right. There is elegance and poetry in these three studies that is missing from so much of photorealistic illustration.
(Text by David Apatoff at . All above images posted by David Apatoff at

All Images above posted by David Apatoff at

Brian wrote at
You can see JC's mastery of color, like how he plays the green in the shadows of the headscarf off of the reddish flesh tones of the woman's face and arms.
Study, study, study this! This guy never backed away from a technical challenge, but kept applying and increasing his technical ability with each piece to tackle more difficult things, such as the patterns and "feel" of clothing, or gesture, or any of a hundred other little details that go into making masterpieces.
This is the fruit of a lifetime of hard work and study (I believe he did this study in his 60's). One side note--it appears he came up with his cross-hatching painting technique from his days working as an engraver in Chicago and his drawing training in France, where smudging was not allowed for drawing--only lines.
Many people appreciate about Leyenekcer was that he used a limited palette for quite a bit of his work. In the study of the husband and wife, I see just a few colors--some kind of duller red, like an indian red, black, white, and yellow ochre. The painting of the pilgrim is very simple too, almost two colors plus white. The marching band major is cad red, yellow ochre and black plus white. His color always looked good because he got his color temperature relationships right, and he got his values and drawing right.
This is another great lesson, if you see it, and that is that color can look brilliant if you get your color temperature relationships right, not just by using very vivd colors--in fact, doing that makes it harder. He gave up something to get something else, and in the end he got what he gave up back. Ironic, but true.

Image courtesy of Andrew Bosley

Horse Girl
Image courtesy of Andrew Bosley

Image courtesy of Andrew Bosley

Leyendecker had a tremendous impact on other illustrators. His work is dazzling in its technical proficiency, beautifully composed and designed, and drawn with the kind of flair and refined skill that only comes to the best of the best. He would make the application of paint (supposedly with a secret proprietary oil painting medium) appear as part of the design, with strokes of color defining the form in his paintings the way hatching is used in drawings, and often allowing parts of the underpainting show through.

First Airplane Ride
Oil on canvas
Collier's, August 28, 1909, cover

He was also a genius for finding “the straight within the curved”, and his figures have a sharp, crisp geometry that makes them really snap. Seemingly simple things like folds in cloth became wonders of painted design, zig-zagging valleys of carefully controlled color, highlighted with those amazing strokes of color hatching.

Florist from the Kelly Collection
©Taller 54 MMVII- 15-08

Arrow Collars and Shirts (teens and 20s)
©Taller 54 MMVII- 15-08

The parade (a pair of works)
Medium Oil on Canvas
Fine American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture
©2009 artnet - The art world online

Title Football scrimmage (a pair of works)
Fine American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture
©2009 artnet - The art world online

Why is she kissing locked-up baby cupid?
It's so gorgeous
Posted by Josh Hollandfrom at

Posted by Josh Hollandfrom at

His hatch-work is an unmistakable stylistic motif. Note the almost Disney-like angularity of the hand pinning the medal, long before Disney.
Leyendecker reportedly worked in stages, creating many small-scale studies from which he would then construct the whole using the traditional technique of “squaring up” to transfer to the larger canvas. The American Art Archives site has a great page of his studies that is not to be missed by anyone interested in the techniques of one of the great illustrators. His painting style is unmistakably his own, shockingly and timelessly modern. His observant shaping, exaggerated anatomy, animated gestures and highly expressive brush strokes will continue to influence and inspire illustrators forever.
(Charley Parker at, Saturday, November 25, 2006)

Posted by Josh Hollandfrom at

A number of fully-painted "studies" like this one were done in preparation for each piece, from which he'd distill the folds and forms into very streamlined finals, removing unnecessary elements.

Posted by Charley Parker

Just look at the modeling on the faces and hands, the rounded apple skin blush on the woman’s cheeks, the textures of the different types of material, the astonishing handling of the cloth folds and the geometric solidity of the underlying forms, the snap and liveliness of his drawing and the designerly confidence of the way his color is applied.

Posted by Charley Parker

Joe Leyendecker’s renown grew from his ability to establish a specific and readily identifiable signature style. With his very wide, deliberate stroke done with authority and control, he seldom overpainted, preferring to interest the viewer with the omissions as well as the parts included. His three most memorable creations, which live on to this day, were the iconic images of the Arrow Collar Man, the New Year’s Baby, and the first Mother’s Day cover created for the Post, the painting which single-handedly birthed the flower delivery industry.

Happy new year!
Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times at
Photo: American Illustrators Gallery NYC / 2008
© by National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, R.I.

This illustration by J.C. Leyendecker appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in late 1908. It was one of his earliest New Year's babies; his first -- the first -- was in 1906.

Haggin Museum's JC Leyendecker show/2006 - a set on Flickr

All above images posted by Louis Gonzales at


John Howe Portfolio said...

Awesome images. Thanks so much for posting! Leyendecker is the best of the American illustrators.

rompedas said...

Dear John Howe,
Thank you for the comment. Yes, Leyendecker's style is unique and beautiful.

Richard Ewing said...

I'm also thankful for your posting here. Wonderful to see some I've never seen before.

carry on!