Joseph Christian Leyendecker was born in Germany in 1874, but his family moved to Chicago when he was eight years old. When he was 16, he apprenticed with an engraving house and progressed to a full-time staff artist. Joseph Leyendecker studied at the Chicago Art Institute and it was during this time that he produced his first commercial work.
In 1896, he left for Paris to continue his studies at the Académie Julian under the tutelage of Adolphe Bouguereau, Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant. After he returned to Chicago in 1897, he began to work with both Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post. He would work with the post for 43 years. Leyendecker helped define the modern magazine cover as a unique art form. His covers captured a range of emotions and situations with his unique style of controlled brushstrokes and bold highlights.
In 1900, Joseph Leyendecker moved to New York City and began working for Arrow Collars and Shirts. This work brought him his greatest fame as an illustrator. He worked for them until 1930. Leyendecker was part of a community of artists that included Frederic Remington, Dean Cornwell and Norman Rockwell. During WWI, Leyendecker joined his fellow illustrators in creating posters that supported the war effort. Their illustrations promoted the war bonds, men to enlist and resource conservation needed by the military.
By the end of the 1930s, the demand for Leyendecker’s illustrations slowed with America entering the WWII. In 1951, he suffered a heart attack and died at his home. Among the pallbearer’s at Leyendecker’s funeral was Norman Rockwell. Joseph Leyendecker, was one of America’s most successful illustration artist.