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History Center Displays Work of Saturday Evening Post Artist

Gainesville Times
Brandee A. Thomas 

If you close your eyes and try to visualize Santa Claus or the New Year’s baby, chances are the image in your head would match the ones created by commercial illustrator, J.C. Leyendecker.

On Tuesday, January 10th the Northeast Georgia History Center visitors will be able to learn more about how Leyendecker “nationalized” American culture by creating images for those characters and others during the early 1900s.

Steve and Rebecca Gurr will present, “Leyendecker and the Saturday Evening Post,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the History Center, 322 Academy St. NE in Gainesville. The discussion is free for center members and $3 for everyone else.

“My wife and I have been collecting his work for years,” Steve Gurr said.

“We like magazine illustrations and were attracted to his style because it was very dramatic. You can recognize it anywhere.”

In addition to an informative talk, the Gurrs will also portions of their personal, Leyendecker collection.

Although Leyendecker was a commercial artist — his illustrations for Arrow Collar are said to be the foundation of modern advertising — many people have come to regard his creations as artwork.

Norman Rockwell may be one of the most celebrated “Saturday Evening Post” illustrators, but his predecessor and mentor was Leyendecker.

According to Gurr, Rockwell was even a pallbearer at Leyendecker’s funeral.

“He learned a lot from him. Leyendecker was responsible for 300 or 400 Saturday Evening Post covers,” Gurr said.

“He did all of the covers for the holiday issues.”

On the first issue of the year, Leyendecker would use the magazine’s cover and the New Year’s baby to depict the “personality of the time.”

“Whatever the big topic of the day was, he’d put the cherub baby in that world event,” Gurr said.

“There’s one about income tax, one about World War I and even one about women’s voting rights.”

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