Skip to main content

Ten Things You Didn't Know: J.C. Leyendecker

J.C. Leyendecker’s illustrations helped build the circulation of The Saturday Evening Post to 2 million in the early 20th century. Antoinette Rahn explores more little-known facts about this important artist.

Compiled by Antoinette Rahn

His artwork and illustrations graced the cover of hundreds of magazines during his more than five decade career, and yet Joseph Christian (J.C.) Leyendecker is lesser known than his contemporaries, which included Norman Rockwell. Below are 10 interesting facts about this influential artist.

Ten Things logo

1 During his career, it’s reported that J.C. Leyendecker’s magazine covers totaled more than 400, with many appearing on The Saturday Evening Post. J.C. stands for Joseph Christian.

2 Born in Montabaur, Germany, in 1874, Leyendecker immigrated to America with his family at age 8. At the age of 15, he began working days at J. Manz & Co. Engraving in Chicago, and in the evening he studied at the Chicago Art Institute.

3 He was posthumously initiated into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 1977. Leyendecker died of a heart attack in 1951.

4 Leyendecker and his brother, Frank, both studied at the illustrious Académie Julian in Paris, and upon their return to the U.S. in 1898, they opened an art studio in Chicago. They relocated to New York at the turn of the 20th century.

5 An oil on canvas laid on panel, titled “Man With Narrow Tie,” serving as a Cluett Shirts Arrow Collar

Leyendecker's Arrow Collar ad

Original oil painting by J.C. Leyendecker, used for Cluett Shirts Arrow Collar advertisement, circa 1910. See No. 5 to see what it sold for at auction in 2014. (Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions)

advertisement, circa 1910, by J.C. Leyendecker commanded $56,250 during an auction May 10, 2014, at Heritage Auctions. Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar Man is considered by many to be one of his most revolutionary works.

6 In the summer of 2015, the Norman Rockwell Museum hosted an exhibition titled “J.C. Leyendecker and The Saturday Evening Post.” Rockwell is largely considered one of the preeminent illustrators of The Saturday Evening Post, along with his predecessor, Leyendecker. It’s reported that Rockwell closely observed, and at times sought to imitate, elements of Leyendecker’s approach to his art. Rockwell’s 1960 biography, “My Adventures as an Illustrator,” includes a chapter about Leyendecker’s influence.

7 Leyendecker’s covers were a significant part of how The Saturday Evening Post acknowledged holidays in the early 20th century. Leyendecker’s holiday covers helped grow circulation to 2 million copies a week during that period.

8 He was among a group of about 30 artists considered to be the leaders of the “Golden Age of American Illustration.” During the period of 1880 and the 1920s, Lyendecker, Howard Pyle, Jessie Willcox Smith, Maxfield Parrish, Violet Oakley, Walter Crane and Beatrix Potter, among others, established new avenues in book and magazine illustration.

9 More than 10 museums within the U.S. have permanent displays or have hosted exhibitions featuring J.C. Leyendecker’s work. The Haggin Museum in Stockton, California, features nearly 60 original pieces by Leyendecker, all acquired during the 1950s. Through the efforts of then-museum director Earl Rowland, the paintings were gifted to the museum from companies that had employed Leyendecker, as well as friends and family of the artist. It is said to be the largest collection of works by Leyendecker on permanent display in a museum.

This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine
Learn about subscribing to Antique Trader magazine for just $26 a year for a print subscription (delivered about twice a month) or $20 for a one-year digital subscription.


10 One of the most recognizable illustrations of Leyendecker’s storied career is the varied New Year Baby series he designed for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post at the beginning of each year. The last painting in that series was done in 1943, which was also the last cover Leyendecker designed for The Saturday Evening Post.


Weekly Showcase



Over 100 YEARS of Chinese History - Our pristine Jade Collection is extensive and beautiful!