The Golden Age of American Illustration

Country: USA
City: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Museum/Gallery: REYNOLDA
Year: 1894-1951

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From August 31 to December 31, 2019

Couple-in-Boat_Cropped_950-WCouple in Boat. Arrow collar Ad. J.C. Leyendecker,  Oil on canvas, 1922. 
Dimensions: 20 1/2 x 29 1/2 in, frame: 28 x 36 x 2 in. 


J. C. Leyendecker (1874–1951) captivated the public with his striking images and fashionable depictions of handsome men and glamorous women. With his instantly identifiable style—“The Leyendecker Look”—he helped shape the image of a nation, producing dozens of enduring icons and creating some of the earliest national advertising brands.

in his studio


No one like Leyendecker represented
the American ideal of class and sophistication

At the height of his style he created illustrations of an enormous attraction from which it is impossible to escape. There is magic in those powerful brushstrokes, blunt forms and glamorous postures. The color is also unexpected. It is in her fashion illustrations where his style develops in all its splendor.

The Donchester — The Cluett Dress Shirt. 1911
 Advertising. Oil on canvas mounted on board. 19 1/2  x 27 1/2 in. Frame: 26 1/2 x 34 1/2 x 2 in.




Leyendecker’s art is a pioneering manifestation of the Art Deco style that will dominate the aesthetics of art, photography and graphic design from 1925 to 1940. Then, such early works made in 1911, position Leyendecker as one of the great initiators of the style.

In the Stands 2. 1913
Arrow Collar Advertising. Oil on canvas. 21 x 37 1/2 in. Frame: 28 3/4 x 42 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.


Golf. 1913
Arrow Collar Advertising. Oil on canvas. 29 x 20 1/2 in. Frame: 35 3/4 x 26 7/8 x 2 in.


Man with Cane and Gloves, 1914

Arrow Collar advertisement, appearing in McClure’s magazine, page 69 
oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 20 3/4 in., unsigned 


Men reading, 1914
Arrow Collar advertisement, oil on canvas, 19 x 39 in.





Man reading in Circle. 1916

Arrow Collar advertisement, oil on canvas, 29 x 20 in.

J.C. Leyendecker_Man Reading in Circle_HR


Man in Coat and Scarf, 1919
House of Kuppenheimer advertising, oil on canvas, 26 x 19 in. Frame: 31 x 24 x 1 7/8 in.




Chase, 1923

Arrow Collar advertisement, oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. Frame: 26 x 36 x 3 in.

In his commercial work, Leyendecker created the famed Arrow Collar Man, who came to define the fashionable American male of the Roaring Twenties. Leyendecker based the Arrow Collar Man on his favorite model and lifelong partner, Charles Beach.




Between 1896 and 1950, Leyendecker illustrated more than 400 magazine covers for the nation’s trade and general interest publications, including The Saturday Evening Post, for which he created 322 cover paintings.

New Year’s Baby, 1909
A Year of Saturdays, oil on canvas, 1908,  28 x 26 in. Frame: 31 3/8 x 29 1/8 x 2 3/8 in.


Bellhop with Hyacinths, 1914

Hearts and Flowers, oil on canvas, 28 x 20 in. Frame: 33 x 25 x 3 in.


November 23, 1929
Goddess Diana)
A Year of Saturdays, Pumpkins and Pigskins, Ink on paper, 11 x 8 in. Frame: 35 7/8 x 28 7/8 x 3 in.


New Year’s Baby, 1930
A Year of Saturdays, oil on canvas, 1929,  26 x 21 in. Frame: 33 5/8 x 26 5/8 x 2 3/4 in.


Holy Night, 1934
A Year of Saturdays, The Christmas Number, oil on canvas, 32 x 24 in. Frame 15 1/4 x 12 1/4 in.


Saint Valentine, 1935
A Year of Saturdays, Hearts and Flowers, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in. Frame: 36 1/2 x 30 3/8 x 2 3/8 in.


The Fourth of July Flagpole, 1937

A Year of Saturdays, Liberty, oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 24 1/4 in. Frame: 39 3/4 x 32 3/4 x 2 in.


November 25, 1939
(A Turkey for Thanksgiving)
A Year of Saturdays, Pumpkins and Pigskins, Ink on paper, 11 x 8 in. Frame size 15 1/4 x 12 1/4 in.




“The Leyendecker Look”—he helped shape the image of a nation, producing dozens of enduring icons and creating some of the earliest national advertising brands. Leyendecker was talented at self-promotion and quickly established an easily recognizable style. His approach to his own career influenced an entire generation of younger artists, most notably Norman Rockwell, who observed, “There wasn’t an illustrator in the country who could draw better.” 

A Dainty Breakfast, 1909
Cream of Wheat Advertisement, Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. Frame: 36 1/8 x 28 1/8 x 1 1/8 in.



Born in 1874 in Montabaur, Germany, Leyendecker immigrated to Chicago in 1882 with his parents and three siblings. Showing an early artistic talent, Leyendecker and his youngest brother, F. X., studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to Paris where they developed their distinctive styles. Upon returning to the United States, the brothers entered a publishing renaissance and soon found themselves at its center, New York City. In 1914, they moved into a 14-room house in New Rochelle, New York, along with Charles Beach, for 48 years.

1904, Development of his own style

In his first illustrations would be the germ of what would later become a powerful pictorial technique based on energetic brushstrokes and schematic forms. In the illustration “The Garden Walk”, some details in the folds of the man’s pants already announce it. 

The Garden Walk 
Tempera on board, 1904. 21 7/8 x 15 1/4 in.  Frame: 28 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.  Success magazine cover

J.C. Leyendecker_Christmas_Carolers_detail_950-WGarden_Walk_950-W

Couple on Horseback  

Gouache on board, 17 x 17 1/2 in. Frame: 37 3/4 x 23 5/8 x 1 3/4 in. 

 In this illustration Leyendecker takes a further step towards his definitive style. The anatomy of horses begins to show an evolution towards flatter schematic forms and the application of powerful contrasting lights to define forms. 

J.C. Leyendecker_Christmas_Carolers_detail_950-WGarden_Walk_950-WCouple-on-Horseback_950-W

Christmas Carolers
Oil on canvas. 1907. 30 1/8 x 21 in. Frame: 37 3/8 x 27 1/8 in. Collier’s cover

Leyendecker continues his advance towards the definitive style and in his journey he encounters a pictorial treatment similar to that of Frans Hals, great master of the Golden Age of Dutch painting. But Leyendecker wants to go further. 

J.C. Leyendecker_Christmas_Carolers_950-W

Lady with Parasol
Oil on canvas, 1909. 18 1/2 x 24 in. Frame: 26 5/8 x 31 7/8 x 3 1/4 in.

This is definitely the founding work of the Leyendecker style. Here you will find all the attributes of his art that would make him a legend in the history of American illustration. 



“Leyendecker and the Golden Age of American Illustration” includes 42 original paintings and 101 Post covers from the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island,  and the American Illustrators Gallery in New York, as well as other materials related to Leyendecker’s work in advertising throughout his five-decade career.

“Leyendecker and the Golden Age of American Illustration” will be presented in English and Spanish. Tickets are on sale now at reynoldahouse.org/leyendecker.


Phil Archer
Deputy Director at Reynolda House Museum of American Art

“Visitors to the exhibition will enjoy the work of one of the great illustrators of the golden age of American illustration. In this period, roughly 1890 to the 1950s, art and commerce became joined in illustrated advertisements, books, and magazines.
“This marriage was made possible by advances in printing technologies, so readers and consumers could be informed and enticed by printed works of art alongside the text. Artists like Howard Pyle, Charles Dana Gibson, J.C. Leyendecker, NC Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, and Norman Rockwell helped to shape Americans’ view of the world, literally, by telling stories in paint that would then be reproduced in millions of magazines”.
“Their illustrations contributed to building a shared sense of culture through stories, humor, and notions of beauty – three ways that we affirm commonalities within a culture. We tell stories, we tell jokes, and we swoon over beautiful things”. 
“Propped in the laps and spread onto the breakfast tables of millions of readers, the magazines illustrated by Leyendecker reflected and helped to shape the fads and fears, antics and aspirations of several generations of Americans”. “This is Reynolda’s first exhibition to center on the art of illustration, which has received short shrift in the annals of art history. This imbalance has been redressed in recent decades in the case of Norman Rockwell, and now more attention is being paid to Leyendecker, the artist who preceded and profoundly influenced Rockwell”.

Judy Goffman Cutler,
Co-Founder and Director of the National Museum of American Illustration

“Everyone knows the name Norman Rockwell, but few people know his mentor and predecessor at the Saturday Evening Post, J.C. Leyendecker. In fact, Leyendecker painted 321 unique covers for the Post, one more than Rockwell. We are honored that the Reynolda House chose to exhibit the National Museum of American Illustration’s J.C. Leyendecker Collection and are paying tribute to such an esteemed and important, albeit today underappreciated, American Illustrator.”


J.C. Leyendecker_book cover 2CATALOGUE
The authors
Laurence S. Cutler.
Architect, author and the chairman and co-founder of the National Museum of American Illustration.
Judi Goffman Cutler. art dealer, owner of the American Illustrators Gallery in New York, and a co-founder of the National Museum of American Illustration. 

Abrams Books
Publication Date: November 1, 2008
Price: $60.00
Trim Size: 9 1⁄2 x 11
ISBN: 978-0-8109-9521-5




Visitors to “Leyendecker and the Golden Age of American Illustration” are invited to experience the complementary exhibition “A Self in the Remaking: Katharine Smith Reynolds Johnston,” on view in the House, which features historic costumes, photographs and manuscripts, many on display for the first time, pulled from the collections in the Reynolda House Archives and the Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives, Wake Forest University.

Reynolda is grateful to lead sponsors for the support of “Leyendecker and the Golden Age of American Illustration:” Joseph M. Bryan, Jr.; Frank and Gary; Michael Felsen, in honor of the Family Equality Council; The David R. Hayworth Foundation; John Hoemann and Howard Upchurch; Leonard Ryden Burr Real Estate; Wake Forest University; contributing sponsors: Joan and David Cotterill; Cathleen and Ray McKinney Exhibition Fund, in honor of Frank and Gary; and exhibition partners Natalie and Penn Broyhill, in honor of Frank and Gary; Phyllis Dunning, in honor of Frank and Gary; Sue and Doug Henderson in honor of the wedding of Conley and David; and Jeff Lindsay and Terry Robertson.