Norman Rockwell Museum Presents “J.C. Leyendecker and The Saturday Evening Post”

Exhibition Looks at Career of Influential Illustrator and Hero to Norman Rockwell

J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951), "Kissing Cupid," 1923

J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951), “Kissing Cupid,” 1923. Cover illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” March 31, 1923. Oil on canvas. The Kelly Collection of American Illustration.

Stockbridge, MA, March 4, 2015—Admired by Norman Rockwell and acknowledged as one of America’s preeminent twentieth century illustration masters, J.C. Leyendecker (1894-1951) rose to fame as the creator of elegant artworks for mass publication. He turned his unmistakable aesthetic to the posters, books, and advertisements of his day, and was celebrated for his Arrow Collar Man, a sophisticated and idealized trade character of his own design. Between 1896 and 1950, Leyendecker illustrated more than 400 magazine covers for the nation’s trade and general interest publications, including “Collier’s,” “Ladies’ Home Journal,” “Judge,” and “The Saturday Evening Post,” for which he created 322 cover paintings (one more than Rockwell’s 321). Twenty years Rockwell’s senior, he was the artist most closely identified with the “Post” during the first decades of the twentieth century. This spring, a new exhibition will offer a rare glimpse of each of Leyendecker’s “Post” cover designs, along with original artwork that showcases the artist’s unique and capable hand—”J.C. Leyendecker and The Saturday Evening Post” is on view March 21 through June 14, 2015 at Norman Rockwell Museum.

Illustration historian Roger Reed notes that “J.C. Leyendecker’s main contribution is to have invented, along with other illustrators, the modern magazine cover as a miniature poster that would engage the viewer, impart an idea, and sell the issue, all within the few moments one browses at the newsstand.” “Leyendecker was an incredible artist,” adds Norman Rockwell Museum Trustee William Hargreaves, whose donation of all 322 of the artist’s “Saturday Evening Post” cover tearsheets to the Museum’s permanent collection, forms the centerpiece of the exhibition. A long-time collector of magazines and advertisements featuring both Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell, Hargreaves finds it “interesting to see how their work progressed during their long careers with the ‘Post.'” Viewers of the exhibition will have that opportunity, as the Leyendecker exhibition will complement the Museum’s ongoing display of all 321 of Rockwell’s “Post” covers.

Norman Rockwell Museum’s Deputy Director/Chief Curator, Stephanie Haboush Plunkett observes that, “like many illustrators of the era, Norman Rockwell admired and imitated J.C. Leyendecker’s distinctive style, particularly as a fledgling artist in search of his own voice. The two enjoyed a warm friendship during their years as neighbors in New Rochelle, New York, and Leyendecker’s influence on Rockwell will also be explored in this exhibition. We are extremely grateful to Bill Hargreaves, and lenders Carol Konner, The Eisenstat Collection of Illustration, National Museum of American Illustration, and other private collectors for making rarely-seen prints and original artworks available for this exhibition.”

“J.C. Leyendecker and The Saturday Evening Post” will include 26 original artworks by the artist, including several of his New Year’s Baby paintings, which were created for the “ ost” from 1907 to 1943, and became his most enduring series of images. A selection of the artist’s Christmas, Easter, and wartime paintings will also be included, in addition to original works by his brother, F.X. Leyendecker (1877-1924), and Norman Rockwell (1894-1978).

The exhibition is sponsored by William Hargreaves, Valerie and George Kennedy, and Carol Konner.

Exhibition-Related Programs

Exhibition Opening Event

J.C. Leyendecker and The Saturday Evening Post: A Conversation with Author/Historians Judy and Laurence Cutler

Saturday March 21, 4 to 6 p.m.

Join us to celebrate the opening of “J.C. Leyendecker and The Saturday Evening Post.” Judy and Laurence Cutler, authors of “J.C. Leyendecker: American Imagist,” will offer insights into Leyendecker’s life and extensive career. The Cutlers are the founders of the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. Included in the program will be a special tribute to the late Dr. Beurt SerVaas, owner of Curtis Publishing; who acquired and revitalized “The Saturday Evening Post” over 44 years ago. The Museum honors his work, friendship, and service as a Museum trustee, together with his daughter, and current leader of Curtis Publishing, Joan SerVaas. Free for Museum members or with regular admission; a reception will follow the program

School Vacation Week Program

Every Picture Tells a Story

Monday, April 20 through Saturday, April 25, 1 to 4 p.m.

What’s your story? Hands-on art making, tours, and performances in the galleries bring the “Saturday Evening Post” cover art of Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker to life and will inspire the creation of your own masterpiece! Pop-in fun for all ages. Free for Museum members, or with regular admission.

Elegance, Arrogance, and Beauty:
J.C. Leyendecker and American Fashion

Saturday, April 25, 5:30 p.m.

Illustrator J.C. Leyendecker is well known for his iconic images of fashionable American men and women, portrayed in his cover illustrations and advertisements featuring the Arrow Collar Man and Kuppenheimer clothing. His images sold the idea of a glamorous lifestyle, the bedrock upon which modern advertising was built. Lynda Meyer, fashion historian and proprietor of Lynda’s Antique Clothing, will discuss the Age of Glamour with a unique display of vintage clothing. Refreshments will be served. Free with Museum admission; program only $15; members free.

The Jazz Age: An Evening of Music with John E. Myers

Saturday, May 9, 5:30 p.m.

Get in the groove with a little jazz music, inspired by the stylized, art deco works by J.C. Leyendecker on view. Dr. John Myers, a professor of music at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, performs regularly as a jazz and classical guitarist. Free with Museum admission; members free.
About J.C. Leyendecker

A sought-after image maker, J.C Leyendecker (1874-1951) was best known for paintings of fashionable men and women in a sleek, idealized style, perfectly suited for the many corporations that commissioned this work—from Arrow and Kuppenheimer clothing to Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, Pierce-Arrow Automobiles, and the United States Armed Forces. A sensitive observer, he also created poignant, whimsical works capturing the antics of children, the bond between mothers and their infants, the blush of new romance, and the intensity of athletes engaged in sports.

Symbolic, recognizable imagery was at the core of the artist’s visual arsenal for “The Saturday Evening Post,” where he created 322 eye-catching cover designs. In addition to his series of New Year’s baby covers, the artist depicted such all-American holidays as the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; the tradition of giving gifts of flowers on Mother’s Day began with his May 30, 1914 “Post” cover, depicting a bellhop carrying a bouquet of hyacinths.

Classically trained at the Chicago Art Institute, and the Colarossi and Academie Julian in Paris, Leyendecker was a gifted draughtsman and technician who eschewed the use of photography in favor of direct drawing from life. His secret painting medium, a mix of oils and turpentine, produced the rich, fluid brush strokes and luminous painting surfaces that are hallmarks of his work.

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