Saturday, June 11, 2011

A love story

Hey kids, I thought I'd post some progress shots of my poster for the "This Poster is Gay" show on June 24th.  (I'm almost done, Michael, I swear!)  I just want to try an inked version with flat colors and then I'll put the type back on.  It'll totally be done today.  I swear. 

And now...a little back story.

I chose J.C. Leyendecker (my all time favorite illustrator) and his lifelong lover Charles Beach as the subjects for my poster.  Their story is a sweet, but sad one.  J.C. Leyendecker painted hundreds of Saturday Evening Post covers, created the concept of the New Year's Baby and he created the famous Arrow Collar Man.  Norman Rockwell admired Leyendecker so much that he moved into the same neighborhood and pretty much stalked Leyendecker until they became friends.  Many years later Rockwell would serve as a pallbearer in Leyendecker's funeral.

J.C. and Charles met when Charles modeled for one of his illustrations.  One illustration turned into many and before long the two were inseparable.  Eventually Charles moved into the Leyendecker mansion shared by J.C., his brother Frank (also an illustrator) and their sister(kinda crazy if I remember correctly). 

Leyendecker lived in the golden age of illustration when an illustrator could make GOBS of money and a mansion, expensive cars and lots of clothes.  Unfortunately, he also lived in a time when being gay simply was not accepted.  He and Charles spent the rest of their lives together, but did so in secret.  They enjoyed many happy years together, but the stock market crash of 1929 wrecked the economy and his commissions declined.  The already quiet illustrator became even more reclusive and his death at the age of 77 in 1951 went largely unnoticed.  A heartbroken Charles Beach died just one year later.  The saddest part is that while J.C. is buried with his family in New York, no one knows where Charles is buried.  Two men who devoted themselves to one another had to live and love in secret.  Two men; two HUMAN BEINGS who spent their lives together couldn't be laid to rest beside one another in death.  That's heartbreaking.  The info on J.C.'s wikipedia page is ok, but not as detailed as it is in J.C. Leyendecker by Laurence S. Cutler and Judy Goffman Cutler.

This is my homage to Leyendecker's Arrow Collar Man who usually emerged from a black background and was accompanied by a girl in a colorful dress.  Since the Arrow Collar Man was actually modeled after Charles Beach I thought it'd be sweet to give J.C. the same tux and have them emerge from the darkness together.  The only moments that are visible are their quiet glances, the crisp white shirts with vests and their hands held proudly in the other's.  I've also posted the pencil sketch and some of the painting before I added the black.  Few pictures exist of the reclusive Leyendecker and almost non of Charles Beach.  I've posted a photo of J.C. and a few of the Arrow Collar Ads featuring Charles Beach.


Shobo said...

I think it's looking quite nice, some really nice color in those faces and I think it'll really come alive with some nice typography. And yeah, that's a pretty sad story.

Aaron said...

These illustrations are beautiful Shane. And the story and research that went into it just makes it all the more awesome. Perfectly tells the story and a really great homage.