Wow, the United States certainly was a gorgeous place at the turn of the century! Just take a gander at all those pretty clothes, those divinely handsome, dapper men—style and grace oozing from every pore. My, oh, my, those gorgeous ladies would swoon all over them. Parties till dawn, champagne and flapper girls. Sheesh, what a life.
Well, perhaps—but only for a select few filthy-rich bastards. Most people were crawling through existence at the hands of tyrant bosses, injustices of cheap labor and the human cost of industrialization. One in every eight Americans found themselves drowning beneath the poverty line, but thanks to illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, things just didn't look so gosh-darn awful. America needed a visual escape, and he gave it to them.
Leyendecker's platform? Illustrated advertisements for Arrow Dress, Collars & Shirts, as well as endless illustrations for some of the leading magazines of the day—Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post, just to name a few. He even used his handsome model/manager/lover, Charles Beach, as his icon of the ideal American man.
So while you may be quick to fall to your knees and worship Norman Rockwell for all the wholesome and warm imagery that is often attributed to the golden age of illustration in America, in reality, it was Joseph Christian Leyendecker who first inspired young Rockwell. Come see the work of the man who made the Golden Age of Illustration in America shine so brightly.
"J.C. Leyendecker: America's 'Other' Illustrator" at Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton, (714) 738-6545; www.cityoffullerton.com/depts/museum. Tues.-Wed. & Fri.-Sun., noon-4 p.m.; Thurs., noon-8 p.m. Through Nov. 18. $10.