While reseaching today's series on artist Joseph Cristian Leyendecker (1874-1951), I repeatedly came across statements by both experts and casual observers to the effect of: "The man who defined masculinity in the first half of the 20th Century was gay." Born in Germany, but brought to Chicago by his parents at age two, he eventually relocated to Paris to study and then to New York where he became very successfull in the arena of commercial and magazine work. Although he never spoke of being gay, he lived openly as such with his lover and favorite model, Charles Beach, shown below:
Fortunately for us, there is a large body of Leyendecker's work extant, and it can be divided roughly into three categories: sports, men's fashion, and patriotism. In all of them, there is a masculinity that can be rugged, vulnerable, innocent, and sometimes a bit brutish. We begin with sports today, but future sets will cover the other themes as well as Charles Beach's contributions.