“You always look so cool…You resemble the advertisement of the man…You know the advertisement of the man.” -Daisy Buchanan said to Gatsby. (The Great Gatsby)
TRQ: J. C. Leyendecker, Born March 23, 1874
One of America’s most iconic illustrators, Joseph Leyendecker was born in Montabaur, Germany. His family moved to Chicago when he was eight years old. There, at the age of fifteen, he took night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago while apprenticing with an engraver. Leyendecker began his career in advertising and illustrating books for the publishing industry. By the time he was nineteen, Leyendecker had mastered the technical skills of illustration.
Together with his brother Francis, Leyendecker was admitted to study at the Académie Julien in Paris. The two brothers formed their own illustration studio after returning to Chicago in 1898. Within a year Leyendecker’s work made the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. By 1900, the brothers’ reputation spread through their work in illustrating for magazines and advertising, and the brothers moved to New York.
Leyendecker’s covers for The Saturday Evening Post popularised the now iconic version of Santa Claus, and inspired Normal Rockwell, one of America’s most well-known painters. Leyendecker’s illustrations of The Arrow Collar Man were so well loved that the fictional mascot received fan mail. In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan references Leyendeckers’ Arrow Collar Man in her compliment to Gatsby: “You always look so cool. You resemble the advertisement of the man . . . you know, the advertisement of the man.”
Both brothers were gay, and their style of illustration is homoerotic, though coded, and often portrays young men as handsome, athletically muscular working-class heroes in male- centric settings, referencing the ideal of the French Academy and style of Art Nouveau.
The model for Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar Man was Charles Beach, whom he met in 1913. Beach, whose physical appearance impressed Leyendecker, became his model, lover and business manager for over forty-nine years. Through the Roaring Twenties, Leyendecker and Beach through one party after another in their home in New Rochelle, New York.
Leyendecker died on July 25, 1951 in New Rochelle. Norman Rockwell was a pallbearer at his funeral. Beach died within months afterwards.