Joseph Christian Leyendecker, J.C. to his friends. J.C. Leyendecker was THE most successful, accomplished, famous artist of his day. He was beyond famous actually. When Norman Rockwell was a boy, he used to go to the train station in New Rochelle just to watch J.C. arrive from New York City, get off the train with his entourage and step into a waiting chauffeured limousin. Leyendecker was a celebrity on the level of the Beatles before they existed and his work defined American life by capturing the essence, the innocence which existed in the country in the years between 1900 and World War II. His work appeared as illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Magazine, The American Weekly, Success Magazine and others, as well as magazine ads for companies such as Kelloggs, Kuppenheimer’s Clothiers and Arrow Collars (the character he created for Arrow Collars was based on one of the male models he frequently used. The Arrow Collar man became so famous and popular with the ladies that the company actually received fan mail wanting to know who he was, what was his name, where did he live . . . and he was even more famous than Rudolph Valentino) The covers of these magazines provided the perfect medium for reproducing his work in all its splendor. At the peak of his career he was the most famous Post artist they had ever had. He turned the Post covers into mini-posters, incorporating all of the elements of the cover into each piece.
Artistically speaking, Leyendecker was an incredible genius whose work is instantly recognizeable even today. He was the king of America’s “Golden Age” of illustration and through his work he virtually invented the look of the modern magazine cover as a purely attention grabbing device. Leyendecker’s work contains elements of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and it is dynamic, graceful, elegant and sophisticated. His unique style of painting captured the attention of the public as nothing before had, and only a handful since have.
J.C.’s work was about the endless pursuit of perfection. He developed his own system of creating an image based on the working methods of the great masters. He began with a series of thumbnail sketches, and from there he would work up a series of larger rough paintings. These were used to determine how to best proceed with the actual finished painting. When he applied his colors, he would let areas of blank, raw canvas show through. These were often areas which would be included as part of a highlight or the white background. J.C. was very secretive about how he worked and very little was known about how he achieved such luminous finished surfaces until his brother, Frank, shared the paint recipe with Norman Rockwell after swearing him to absolute secrecy. The colors were composed of Turpentine, stand oil and linseed oil, mixed fresh each morning in specific proportion. The colors were very thin, “slippery” if you will. When these colors were applied to the canvas they showed no sign whatsoever of having been applied by a brush. This resulted in a finished painting composed of precisely arranged areas of light and color. Every stroke was applied perfectly . . .once. J.C.’s brush control and mastery of his talents are legendary still today.
Leyendecker’s finished canvases were masterpieces of technique, color and magic. He influenced America at a time when we were just beginning to discover who we were as a nation. His work has influenced me to my very core and I am extremely grateful. I enjoy looking at his work over and over.
J.C. Leyendecker lived a quiet personal life that included a circle of very few friends. I wish I had been there. For all of his fame a fortune, for all of the love and admiration he received from his adoring public, he died alone in his home by the sea, in New Rochelle, New York. I feel him with me every day.
As I write this I find myself at a crossroad, artistically speaking. All of my images up to now have been done using the hard-edge, flat technique I have perfected over the past twenty years. I have something different in mind which has been brewing inside me for several years. The subject matter, colors, and stylization will still be there, but the application of the paint will be different...painterly. My 40th birthday is in eight days. Time is passing...it's time to grow.
The subject of just how short our lives really are has been on my mind a lot lately. We’re just here for the blink of an eye and then we’re gone. It’s what you do in between that counts.
What seems like an eternity when you’re young and self-centered becomes more and more precious as you get older. As years go by and time picks up speed, you experience what is commonly known as “The Quickening”. This is when your life passes in blocks of five or ten years before you wake up and say “Where did those years go?” Pretty soon you reach a point where you begin to realize “Half of my life might be over” and you take stock of your priorities, your interests, your dreams. You keep the things that can help you move forward and discard those which hold you back. Time is the one thing we can never have enough of, that thing for which kings will give up a kingdom, yet we waste it anyways because there will always be more tomorrow.
Each person’s life is like a string of time. It is finite in length, with a beginning and an end. Imagine where you are right now as a single point in your time. Where are you on your string of time? What are you doing with what you’ve been given? How are you living your life? When all is said and done, what will your history be? Did you realize the light within and share it with the world? Did you inspire anyone to live differently or reach for their dreams? Did you strive to reach upward and live vertically, aspiring to higher levels of consciousness and awareness? Did you come to know God? I’m thankful that I don’t know exactly where I am along my string of time. I only know that I try to make the most of what I have and inspire others to realize and do the same. History has proven it only takes one person to change the world.
The time allotted to us is analogous to the shutter of a camera; it opens with our birth, allowing in the small amount of light we must work with before it closes and the universe vanishes. With that light we must enter our “dark room” and develop our conception of existence--what we are, why we are here, and what is our relationship to the whole. There are pneumagraphs laying around that others have left behind--scripture, books, images and institutions. Some of them were successful in capturing the Light, others only darkness visible.
There is so little time, but time is literally all we have: we must work while it is day, for the night cometh, when no man can work. Saying you have no time is logically equivalent to saying that you have no life, light or freedom. If you are not free, then your time really is nothing more than duration. And if you have no light, you are free in the illusory way that an animal is--free to be led horizontally by your instincts and learned behaviors.
Time. Freedom. Light. If you don’t have one, you really don’t have the others either. Your life is history.
Gabriel is my guardian angel. He is my saint. I am Catholic.
Gabriel is of significance in each of the world's three major religions.
He is one of seven Archangels, and one of three mentioned by name in the Bible. It was Gabriel who appeared to the prophet Daniel to explain his visions regarding the Messiah...and it was Gabriel who had the most significant of all angelic appearances...appearing before Mary and announcing the birth of the Saviour. His name means "Man of God, God is my strength" and he is the patron saint of communication workers.
Gabriel came to me when my art was at a turning point 12 years ago. I was sitting at my art table, experiencing a severe creative block which had been going on for a couple of months, when I received a phone call in which I learned about the death of a life-long friend. After hanging up the phone, I returned to my art table and sat there in a state of shock. Since it was a Sunday, I naturally had the newspaper in a pile on the floor beside my table. I reached down and picked up whatever happened to be on top in an attempt to take my mind off of the just received news.......and there was Gabriel on the front page of the travel section. He was in sculpture form, of course. It was a story on traveling to Italy. The sculpture of him lives at the Vatican, holding up a large bath of Holy Water.
My friend's name was Keith Ebanks. He was Catholic before I ever knew what it meant. I think of him often and sometimes I feel him nearby, and I will be forever grateful for the sense of wonder and curiosity his Catholic faith instilled in me.
Angels exist as beings of pure line and color, pure energy, and they are quite real indeed, I assure you.
The actual title of this painting is “Emergence”, but over the past three years since its completion, Michael kept coming back to me over and over . . .and over. I wasn’t sure which angel this was when the painting was finished, so I used the title Emergence due to the fact that it seems to be emerging directly in front of you . . .also because it represents a landmark in the deepening of my style. With this painting I was led to a place of deeper knowledge and understanding of the abstract qualities in my work. There is line and color, and nothing else. It also represents a step towards understand something, the event, which led to the vision of my style 15 years ago.
This image is quite powerful, almost confrontational at times. It came to me during an extremely tumultuous and stressful time in my life. St. Michael is the warrior angel and protector of souls. He is revered in each of the world’s three major religions. He was created before Gabriel . . .he is the angel of mercy. His name means “Who is like God?”
One of my artistic heroes is the Italian Rococo sculptor Antonio Canova. This painting is based on one of his sculptures which lives in the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Canova’s work was nothing short of absolute perfection. The lines, the shapes and forms are so pure, its as though they existed before the sculpture was ever conceived.
If you haven't been to the gallery within the last week, stop by and sign the guestbook. Just look for "Sign the Gusetbook" on the gallery's homepage. Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think of the angels, and let everyone know where you live. The Choate Gallery receives visitors from literally every corner of the world.
Here are some of the countries from which the Choate Gallery has received visitors since the beginning of April.
I appreciate the time everyone takes to visit the gallery. Please don't hesitate to sign the guestbook or send me an e-mail and let me know what you think. Finally, I'll be adding a forum to the website in a week or two so you can all have a place to get together and share your thoughts about the angels.
My charitable foundation project has taken another step forward. I have started accepting donations in order to fund the next step in the process.
I'm raising funds to purchase software upgrades in order to build the foundation's new website, as well as to purchase web-hosting space and services. Please make a micro-donation of at least $5, $10, or $25. Since the IRS has not yet granted me tax-exempt status these donations will not be tax-deductible.
You can read about the foundation's purpose here, here and here.
Agora Gallery contemporary fine art gallery established 1984. Art consulting services to private and corporate art collectors are provided. Locations in the SoHo and Chelsea art districts. Exhibiting painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and mixed media. Artist portfolios are reviewed. The sponsor of the Chelsea International Fine Art Competition.