J.C. LEYENDECKER, German commercial artist, born (d: 1951); A highly popular and influential American illustrator of Dutch ancestry, Leyendecker was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States at the age of eight in 1882 from Montabaur, Germany, with his parents, Peter Leyendecker and Elizabeth née Oreseifen, his sister, Augusta, and two brothers, Francis Xavier Leyendecker, and Adolph Leyendecker.
J.C. Leyendecker was one of the most successful commercial artists of the 20th century, best known, perhaps as the creator of the Arrow Collar Man. Almost seven decades after the height of his vogue, the Arrow Collar Man still appeals. Blond, classically handsome, patrician, somewhat aloof, probably a bit of a shit, he is definitely more interested in himself than he is in any of the beautiful women pictured with him. When he first appeared in magazine ads, the Arrow Collar people received carloads of fan letters from adoring women eager to discover the identity of the sexy artist’s model. Some proposed marriage. Little did they know that the Arrow Collar Man was the artist’s lover, Charles Beach, blond, handsome, patrician, vain and very much a self-interested shit.
Over forty years, Leyendecker illustrated covers for the enormously popular Saturday Evening Post. In total, he produced over 300 illustrations for the magazine. The mainstream image of Santa Claus as a jolly fat man in a red fur-trimmed coat was popularized by Leyendecker, as was the image of the New Year Baby. Also notable is Leyendecker’s illustration of the Three Kings, from the Christmas 1900, edition of the Saturday Evening Post. Leyendecker drew propaganda posters during WWI, encouraging people to buy war bonds. Leyendecker was the chief influence on, and a friend of, Norman Rockwell, who was a pallbearer at Leyendecker’s funeral. In 1914 the Leyendecker brothers built an estate in New Rochelle, NY, where they, their sister, and Charles Beach, lived. Leyendecker was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1977.
Leyendecker at his artistic zenith was the highest paid illustrator working in the US. When he died, his sister, Augusta, burned his private papers and cast out Charles Beach, who disappeared and whose fate remains unknown. There never has been a good biography written about Leyendecker; thanks to his sister his story was silenced.