Frank X. Leyendecker
Like his illustrious brother Joe (J.C.) Leyendecker, Frank Xavier (F.X.) Leyendecker was born in Montabour, Germany, and moved to Chicago in 1882. After Joe worked selling illustrations for advertising posters and book designs, and in 1896 won first price in a cover design contest for The Century magazine’s August Midsummer Holiday Number. This allowed him to finance both himself and Frank to study at the acclaimed Académie Julian in Paris. There, the brothers studied under the esteemed faculty and developed their blossoming artistic talents.
In 1897, the brothers returned to Chicago to begin careers in illustration. Unfortunately, Frank returned with addiction problems, which would plague him for the rest of his life. The two brothers set up a shared art studio in Chicago where they experienced early success in advertising.
In the fall of 1900 the family moved to New York City and Frank got off to a flying start. In the first six years Collier’s commissioned him for twenty-six covers, while Joe painted fewer than half that many.
After this initial success, Frank fell under the overwhelming shadow of his prolific older brother, and became known as “The Lesser Leyendecker.” Yet his Collier’s covers are considered to be among the most important magazine illustrations.
In 1909, Frank illustrated Rudyard Kipling’s futuristic science fiction story entitled, “With The Night Mail” for Doubleday. The following year he, Joe and their sister moved to New Rochelle, New York.
Frank Leyendecker created advertisement illustrations for such clients as Luxite Hosiery, Remington Arms, Palmolive Soap, and Willy’s Motors. He created cover and interior illustrations for Colliers, Leslie's, Life, McClure's, The Saturday Evening Post, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. He also painted covers for Street & Smith pulp magazines, such as People's Favorite Magazine and The Popular Magazine, as well as for Fawcett’s pulp magazine Battle Stories, which was originally created as a WWI recruitment poster.
In 1914, Frank moved into a private wing of his brother’s newly built mansion in New Rochelle, NY. After Joe Leyendecker’s partner and model Charles Beach moved into the New Rochelle mansion there was friction between Frank and Beach. Eventually the two brothers fought over Beach and Frank moved out of his brother’s house in 1923 and into Norman Rockwell’s unfinished garage apartment.
At this point in his life Frank was depressed and in ill health from his ongoing drug addiction and a career that was all but over. He passed away on Good Friday, April 19, 1924, at only 47 years old, most likely suicide by morphine overdose. His short obituary named him “one of the foremost artists and illustrators of this country.” On December 20, 1924, the Art Association of New Rochelle held a Memorial Exhibition of his artworks, which drew unabated crowds.
He was eulogized as having given “fidelity to tradition and no less to suavity and grace and authority of method that he raised the standard of commercial art to a place never before occupied, as a legitimate adjunct to what we know as true art, that is, enduring art.”