Image of the Week 6/17/16 - The Courtship June 18 2016

3-39 The Courtship

Cover Image for Success Magazine – December 1905

Leyendecker, J. C. (1874–1951)


Courtesy of The Illustrated Gallery, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania


Joseph Christian (Joe) Leyendecker created this stylist picture in 1905. (Page 705 of Volume VIII. See:] Entitled The Courtship, it appeared on the cover of the December issue of Success Magazine. Since it is not associated with an article in the magazine, I suppose Leyendecker created it to be a cover. It provides an excellent example of what Jordan Berman of The Illustrated Gallery meant when he observed that “artists produced their best work for magazine covers.”

Success Magazine’s Editor said this of its art and of Leyendecker:

Ten years ago it was not considered necessary to illustrate a magazine beyond a few pictures that might illumine the text. To-day it is an equal factor with clever literature in the "make up" of any publication worthy of a standard rank. Good artists are more difficult to secure and demand more remuneration than ever before. Mechanical devices for the reproduction of high-grade work in half-tone and color have almost reached the acme of the inventor's art. We are taking advantage of all these conditions and have im proved our art department to meet the demand of the time. Our cover designs, which have been so noted in the past, will be even more striking in the future. Success Magazine probably pays the highest price of any magazine in America for its cover designs. J. C. Leyendecker, the best cover designer in America, is one of our staff of artists. A fine sample of his exquisite workman ship is shown in our Christmas issue. [This comment, along with an image of the artist can be found on the front pages of the magazine’s December 1905 issue.]

Joe Leyendecker had begun his career over a decade before he painted The Courtship. In 1894, at the age of twenty-four, he illustrated his first book, which was an American edition of Anthony Hope’s The Dolly Dialogues. The book was published by Chicago-based E.A. Weeks & Company. He had created the first of 321 covers he produced for The Saturday Evening Post in May of 1899. He continued to provide covers for the the Post until 1943.

Joe rose to become “the best cover designer in America” by polishing his natural gifts as a draftsman and by studying in Paris with some of France’s most celebrated classically trained teachers. While working for an engraving firm in Chicago, he took lessons in figure drawing under John H. Vanderpoel at the Chicago Institute of Art. In the fall of 1896, he and his brother, Francis Xavier (Frank), traveled to Paris where they spent two years studying with Jules Joseph Lefebvre and William-Adolphe Bouguereau at the Académie Julian. They supplemented this instruction by attending classes at the Académie Colarossi on Paris’s avant garde Left Bank.

Joe may have earned his reputation creating cover art for publications like The Saturday Evening Post and Success Magazine, but he probably financed his lavish life style with the commissions he earned from clothing manufactures like Cleutt Peabody & Company, the House of Keppenheimer, Hart Schaffner & Marx, and Interwoven Socks.

The male characters Joe Leyendecker presented in his ads were poised, commanding, and charming, which made them paradigms of the era’s “smart set.” They soon became social icons the way Charles Dana Gibson’s “girls” had done a decade before. It seems everyone born during the Gilded Age wanted to become a millionaire. Joe showed them how to dress one.

            I add additional details about J. C. Leyendecker’s life, career, and art in my forthcoming book Painting America’s Portrait - How Illustrators Created Their Art, which will be published this fall by Commonwealth Books of Virginia. You can learn more about at


Jim Thompson

Illustration Art Enthusiast