Born in Germany, Joseph Christian Leyendecker and his family immigrated to Chicago in 1882. Recognizing an early talent for fine draughtsmanship, young Leyendecker served as an apprentice at a local engraver's studio at the age of sixteen. He was quickly promoted to a full-time staff artist and began taking classes at The Art Institute of Chicago to further refine his skills. Shortly thereafter, J.C. and his brother, Frank, moved to Paris to begin their studies at the Acadmie Julian. While abroad, the brothers were exposed to the striking advertisements of notable artists such as Alphonse Mucha and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. After a short stay in Paris, the brothers returned to Chicago and J.C. began his tenure with The Saturday Evening Post; a successful relationship that yielded 322 cover illustrations. Upon his move to New York City in 1900, Leyendecker began creating advertisements for leading apparel manufacturers, including Interwoven Socks, B. Kuppenheimer & Co., and Cluett Peabody & Company. The
latter affiliation resulted in his celebrated Arrow Collar ads, for which he is best known. "Leyendecker's style was strong and angular. His square-jawed, clear-eyed men all more or less resembled the Arrow Collar Man he invented, but his style was fuid enough to encompass paintings of women and children. Moreover, he was capable of shifting his tone;
his covers could be serious or romantic or satiric or comic." J. Cohn, Covers of The Saturday Evening Post: Seventy Years of Outstanding Illustration from America's Favorite Magazine, New York, 1995, p. 8.
June Graduate ran as the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on June 5th, 1920. America was in the throes of era of prosperity and economic growth, which would last up until the Great Depression. "Leyendecker's June Graduate includes the Yale University coat of arms with a Lamp of Knowledge crest atop a shield with a bible emblazoned with the Yale motto, 'lux et veritas' ('Light and truth'). J.C.'s graduate has the demeanor of entitlement, appearing as he did at the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. Coupled with arrogance, he looks down upon his viewer, grasping his diploma in one hand, while his other hand sits atop a globe with the veritable "world at his fingertips." (J. Cutler, L. Cutler, Norman Rockwell and His Mentor J.C. Leyendecker, Newport, Rhode Island, 2010, p. 18).
Leyendecker was a mentor to Norman Rockwell, a fellow artist and illustrator for he Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell approached this same subject in a subsequent cover for he Post in 1959 (lot 32 in this sale). While the subject is the same, the pose and tone are entirely different, indicative not only the differing personalities of the artist's, but as direct reflections of the era in which the respective works were painted.