J. C. Leyendecker

Continuing the theme of standards of male beauty in advertising, I turn now to the American artist J. C. Leyendecker (hat tip to Arne Adolfsen on Facebook). Before the Marlboro Man, before the underwear gods, Leyendecker depicted many different styles of masculinity. From the Wikipedia entry (as it was this morning):

Joseph Christian Leyendecker (March 23, 1874 – July 25, 1951) was one of the pre-eminent American illustrators of the early 20th century. He is best known for his poster, book, and advertising illustrations, the trade character known as The Arrow Collar Man, and his numerous covers for the Saturday Evening Post. Between 1896 and 1950, Leyendecker painted more than 400 magazine covers. During ‘The Golden Age of American Illustration’, for the Saturday Evening Post alone, J. C. Leyendecker produced 322 covers, as well as many advertisement illustrations for its interior pages.

… Many biographers have speculated on J. C. Leyendecker’s sexuality, often attributing the apparent homoerotic aesthetic of his work to a homosexual identity. Without question, Leyendecker excelled at depicting male homosocial spaces (locker rooms, clubhouses, tailoring shops) and extraordinarily handsome young men in curious poses or exchanging inexplicable glances. Moreover, Leyendecker never married and lived with another man, Charles Beach, for much of his adult life, who is assumed to have been his lover and the original model of the Arrow Collar Man.

Here’s an Arrow Shirt ad, with a “dandy” image:

And then the “classical” beauty of the male nude:

Then two images of rugged shirtless masculinity, complete with phallic symbols:

Finally, a Leyendecker with homoerotic overtones, repurposed in an explicitly gay context:


4 Responses to “J. C. Leyendecker”

  1. mike Says:

    It’s always interesting to see this type of art that seems obvious, even blatant, in its homoerotic nature and then wonder how this could not have been as obvious to an audience of a few generations ago. Assuming, I suppose, that it wasn’t. Although it’s hard to imagine that the Navy would have been comfortable with a wink-and-nod component to its recruitment posters. (Perhaps you know some history on this type of thing — ? Dunno.)

    At least with Art Frahm, the intent is pretty obvious. 🙂 [http://www.lileks.com/institute/frahm/indexmain.html]

  2. ShadowFox Says:

    Note the ship’s name in the last poster as well…

  3. Recruiting men | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] theme 1, a J.C. Leyendecker Collier’s cover (one of two such images in my 2011 posting on […]

  4. Homoerotic Says:

    Concerning human beauty, a Greek philosopher said that if one thing is desirable for itself, and the other for the look of it, the former is more desirable, as (e.g.) universal beauty defined for all things and the other, erotic related. Great artists of old could certainly reach the first one when women were involved and from time to time they were able to achieve the second one too. Many of today’s artists are terrified of the second one –the sensual, stigmatized as homosexual- when it comes to men. But in this book, J. C. Leyendecker: Gallery of Beefcakes, you will lay eyes on lines of faces, heads, limbs and bodies that will validates a nickname Leyendecker earned after his death: “the guy who made men look like they were made of cheesecakes.” Homo-Erotic brings Leyendecker into sharp focus here with galleries of photos of sexy males who if Leyendecker was alive today would probably employ as models.https://www.createspace.com/7282763

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