Hiding homosexuality: JCL

Via Pinterest today, a story from the Messy Nessy site, “Hiding Homosexuality on the Cover of America’s Magazines a Century Ago” from 2/5/19, about illustrator and commercial artist J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951), with more examples of his work beyond the ones that have already appeared on this blog.

Three steamy high-masculinity examples follow:

(#1) JCL1

(#2) JCL2

(#3) JCL3

From the Messy Nessy site:

One of the first things you’ll start to notice about Joe Christian Leyendecker’s work is that his women were never quite as good-looking as his men, who were devastatingly handsome. He gave us the elegance of Gatsby 20 years before F. Scott Fitzgerald had even invented him. … Leyendecker created more than 400 magazine covers during the Golden Age of American Illustration, painting a picture of the new 20th century male and influencing millions of Americans, few of whom knew he was gay. Over a century later, as LGBT advertising is only now just starting to find a place in mainstream media, let’s take a look at the pioneering artist who in retrospect, hardly seemed to be hiding his sexuality at all.

… A master depicter of oiled-up hunks, J.C’s ads appeared all across mainstream publications from the early 1900s right up until the Second World War.

… The magnum opus of his work … is “The Arrow Collar Man”, a character created for a shirt company who became one of the early-20th century’s biggest male sex symbols. “[He] had about as large a place in the pantheon of hotness as Rudolph Valentino, Elvis, and the Marlboro man,” explained Vogue’s Laird Borrelli Persson.

(#4) Two Arrow Collar men enjoying each other’s company: models of style and masculine elegance

… Americans were swooning, as was J.C., and with good reason: the model behind the Arrow Collar Man was none of the than the muse and love of his life, Charles Beach

Leyendecker lived with Charles in a splendid house in New Rochelle, New York, where they threw party after party in true Roaring Twenties glory, embodying the decadence of the era and indulging in their own real-life Gatsby fairytale thanks to the artist’s success.

If Leyendecker’s sexuality was understood in the industry, it was kept quiet from the audience. But his work did all the talking, albeit in coded messages; suggestive side staring, a preference male-centric environments like locker rooms, clubhouses and tailoring shops. It’s as if Leyendecker was trying to communicate with a gay audience through secret glances and homoerotic undertones. Wartime was also a good space for homoeroticism to hide in plain sight and J. C. painted numerous recruitment posters for the United States military and the war effort.

And on this blog.

on 1/22/11 in “J. C. Leyendecker”: 5 examples

on 8/6/17 in “Words as weapons, images as ideas”: #4 is a JCL homoerotic war poster


and #10 a Liberty Loan poster;

His specialty was commercial illustration, mostly for men’s fashion, and he produced many subtly or not-so-subtly homoerotic illustrations

on 11/28/19 in “All thanks to HomoEros”: #1 is a JCL homoerotic Thanksgiving Saturday Evening Post cover:


(Some discussion of the symbolism here in that posting.)


One Response to “Hiding homosexuality: JCL”

  1. Leyendecker’s jockey | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] JCL’s depictions of men often homoerotic, JCL was himself homosexual. See the discussion in my 7/10/20 posting “Hiding homosexuality: JCL”, with this inventory of my earlier postings about the […]

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