Joseph Christian Leyendecker
1874-1951 | American
Three Wise Men
Oil on Canvas
The three wise men present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn baby Jesus in this elegant, well-finished study by J.C. Leyendecker. Created in preparation for the Christmas cover of the December 1900 Success magazine, the piece is exemplary of Leyendecker’s distinct, hatched illustration style that conveys strength and sophistication with ease. The figure’s richly colored robes and reverent poses capture the character of the Bible story, while his unmistakable modern aesthetic lends a fresh perspective to these icons.
Leyendecker was the preeminent illustrator of his era, and he is remembered today for his numerous magazine covers, where the artist was commissioned to illustrate the most high-profile editions of the publication and, most notably, the holiday issues. This particular piece, because it is a preliminary study, provides an intriguing look into his artistic process for these important covers. Leyendecker would experiment with color, pattern and positioning in his studies, evidenced here by the detail sketches of chain mail texture and praying hands on the perimeter of the composition. A favorite among collectors, such studies are exceptionally rare and truly delightful glimpses into Leyendecker’s work.
Born in Germany in 1874, Leyendecker emerged as a major talent near the turn of the 20th century, becoming the most well-liked and sought-after American illustrator of his day. In 1898, Leyendecker produced the first of 48 covers for Collier’s magazine. The next year, he painted his first cover for Saturday Evening Post magazine, which was the beginning of a 44-year association with that esteemed publication. Over the course of his career, he would also paint covers for Life magazine, illustrations for a library of books, and transform advertising for such companies as B. Kuppenheimer & Co. and Interwoven Socks.
His remarkable and extensive oeuvre ensured his influence over an entire generation of young artists, most notably Norman Rockwell, who was vocal about the impact of Leyendecker on his work. His unique hatching technique makes his distinctive style instantly recognizable, and he remains one of the most beloved American illustrators of the early 20th century.
Canvas: 18" high x 27" wide
Frame: 24 1/2" high x 33 1/2" wide