J.C. Leyendecker/Norman Rockwell: One Person's Perspective

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  1. #1
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    Post J.C. Leyendecker/Norman Rockwell: One Person's Perspective

    I've been reading the new book on J.C. Leyendecker that I'd purchased at Budart website (great site!) and have had some thoughts occur about Leyendecker & Rockwell.

    The first thing I realized when reading this book, though informative, that it had a slant towards vilifying Rockwell, making him out to be an opportunist, while depicting Leyendecker as naive and being taken advantage of by the younger, more eager artist Rockwell.

    Here's the thing I've picked up while having read up on both illustrators/artists.

    Leyendecker, was a artistic technician. He wanted to live a life without the feeling of persecution he would have had to endure, giving his sexual orientation in a time of Hetero-dominance.

    So he used his abilities to live in the life and style he wanted, not putting much stake in being overly recognized or placed upon a creative plateau. He was a genuis, that wanted to live a creative life. Not within the text of his book was he once shown as someone that wanted immortality through his art.

    He achieved fame, which he accepted and used.

    He was a talented technician, but his art was a means to an end, that ending being his ability to live as a homosexual male without question, and he did.

    This book devoted a whole page, blatantly saying he (Rockwell) stole his entire craft from Leyendecker, but then comes the facts that overturn the innuendo, throughout his entire life, from rise to fall, even when all others turned away from Leyendecker, and the author of this book couldn't discount the facts to keep his opinion as fact:

    In the end, when they buried Leyendecker, 7 people were there, present at his funeral.

    Norman Rockwell. Throughout his entire life, the one person that was there, was Rockwell.

    The author could not change that historical fact to keep vilifying Rockwell as a thief.

    Did Rockwell pick Leyendecker's brain for techniques? Most definitely, but the difference is, and I think this is where people get the wrong conclusion about Rockwell.

    Leyendecker never wanted to be remembered past his small circle, or didn't care. His last wishes were that all his works be destroyed. He made no plans to keep his legacy alive, nor did he put much important about it.

    Rockwell wanted to be remembered, wanted the recognition, aspired his illustration to the level of fine art, and set out a plan to be remembered. With museums, books, etc.

    Rockwell wanted the immortalization that Leyendecker did not. The reason why Rockwell overshadowed Leyendecker, was because he wanted the spotlight. Leyendecker just wanted to live decadently.

    His art, was that doorway. He lived the life he wanted.

    So did Rockwell. Never within the context of the book, through interview or research, did anyone every indicate that any kind of bad blood existed between Rockwell and Leyendecker.

    The only one indicating that there should have, was the author.

    I'm enjoying this book greatly, and am learning a great many things.

    I'll keep enjoying both Leyendecker and Rockwell for the greatness in technique they both obtained, and studying them both to enhance my own creative desires and goals.

    I'm glad to own this book.

    But, remember, this is just my opinion.

    Last edited by OmenSpirits; April 7th, 2009 at 05:51 PM.
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  3. #2
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    I can't say I agree with you - you're boiling down Leyendecker's life to one solitary facet of it: his homosexuality.

    Whereas in fact he was known for being obsessed with his art, in the book itself he is described as putting his art before all else, cancelling social engagements if they got in the way of work etc...

    Also, I would steer clear of describing his sexuality as "decadent", it makes you sound a tad homophobic.

    At the end of the day I just see him as a great illustrator who happened to be gay, no big deal and certainly not worth trying to over-analyse how that affected his art. Just enjoy the pictures.

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    Sounds like you knew these guys pretty well!

    Snarkiness aside, I can't possibly fathom a) anybody could possibly know what actually went down between those guys and in their heads, and b) why it really might help anybody to vilify either of those guys. It's just journalism.

    I'm just happy there's finally a book in print with a decent number of Leyendecker reproductions...

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    Quote Originally Posted by frog from itchy View Post
    I can't say I agree with you - you're boiling down Leyendecker's life to one solitary facet of it: his homosexuality.

    Whereas in fact he was known for being obsessed with his art, in the book itself he is described as putting his art before all else, cancelling social engagements if they got in the way of work etc...

    Also, I would steer clear of describing his sexuality as "decadent", it makes you sound a tad homophobic.
    Wasn't describing his sexuality, I was describing his lifestyle. As it was compared to in the book to The Great Gasby, which was a decadent lifestyle. There is a difference.

    I wasn't trying to surmise his life down to his sexual preference, given the times he lived in, wanting his freedom, using his art would be a purpose to live his live without being scrutinized. He had a taste of such freedom when he and his brother moved to paris with a lot of other artists. Which, from reading what was there, he did. He was an artist, that used his craft as a means to an end.

    Who wouldn't want the freedom to create without hinderance? I'd quit my 9 to 5 right now for the chance! We all have a life we wish to live, and work to that end. Does that make it his only motivation in creating? No, but it makes it a part of it.

    On his obssessive nature, I may stand corrected, but be wary of throwing around that "homophobic" statement until you get more into a discussion about the topic and get a better understanding, and even a clarification, of the meaning and intent of the initial post.

    It becomes way too easy to make such assumptions without questioning me.

    The fact is though, the author did blast Rockwell, and then turns around and shows how much they were friends.

    And I too love the fact that there's a book of his works.

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
    -John Huston, Director
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    If you haven't seen it already you might enjoy "Norman Rockwell- My Adventures as an Illustrator".

    It gives his perspective on Leyendecker and it's actually a really funny book.
    I like to think it wasn't ghost written because he comes across as a highly articulate, amusing chap who would have been fun to go for a cocktail or three with.

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    I haven't read the new Lyendecker book yet, but I agree with your general conclusion (if not your exact way of expressing it). And definitely read My Adventures as an Illustrator if you haven't already. (Flake, it was ghostwritten, but by his son, so we can assume the authorial "voice" is pretty accurate.)


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  9. #7
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    Definitely will pick that book up (it'll join my Bama, Ross, Rude, Leyendecker bio-book collection).

    I also just picked up the DVD of his (Rockwell's) life that was shown on A&E I think it was, when last I saw it. Great documentary. Definitely want to go to his museum.

    His and Frazetta's museum. Do I have a book on him? I know I have Painting with Fire, and a few of his...WAIT, wait, wait I do, I do. It's been a long time since I've read it (to do list on re-reads).

    Thanks for the head's up on that book.

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
    -John Huston, Director
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