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.