Joseph Christian Leyendecker

portion of the cover of Colliers Magazine, November 10, 1917

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Joseph Christian Leyendecker was the most out front closeted gay man of the twentieth century. His mastery of the commercial art medium surpassed that of his better known follower, Norman Rockwell. Rockwell idolized Leyendecker.

His work roughly spanned the period from 1895 to 1950. He is best known for his Saturday Evening Post and Collier's Weekly covers and for his Arrow collar and Kuppenheimer suit advertisements. His drawings of athletes and military men, long ignored by straight publishers, are attracting a growing group of collectors and scholars. Leyendecker went so
far as to grease up his carefully selected athletic models with vaseline and then paint them in candlelight so he could get the effect of glowing muscular male bodies which he found magnetizing. These images were then
happily published in resplendent color by the Saturday Evening Post.

He practically invented the American Santa Claus and did invent the New Year's baby. The U. S. Postal Service issued one of these on December 27, 1999 to commemorate the millenium.

Leyendecker met Charles Beach in 1903. Beach had started modeling a year or two earlier at the age of sixteen. Amazingly little is known about JCL and Beach's life together. From about 1905 to 1925 they entertained often. Later they lived quietly with their few servants, but not as recluses.

Leyendecker's last years were sad. The ascendancy of photography meant he had to go himself to peddle his gorgeous paintings to art editors, which he had never done before. He died at home of a heart attack in 1951 with Beach close at hand. The funeral was held in the studio of Leyendecker's home. The pallbearers were virtually the only ones present with Rockwell
being one of the pallbearers, the rest of whom were JCL's male models. The New Rochelle newspaper reported, however, that a funeral mass was held at Blessed Sacrament at ten o'clock, July 28, 1951. Having made and spent a fortune, Leyendecker was buried in an unmarked grave in Woodlawn Cemetery at 233rd Street in The Bronx, New York. The grave was marked by the director of The Haggin Museum in California several years later.
Studios of Joseph Christian Leyendecker

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