Donald Albrecht

Under Cover:
J. C. Leyendecker and American Masculinity

New-York Historical Society

J. C. Leyendecker was a gay illustrator and commercial artist who helped shape American visual culture in the first three decades of the 20th century. Almost from the start of his career in 1893, he specialized in depicting men in such printed media as advertisements, magazines, books, and college posters. In 1913 New York’s Sun newspaper declared him the “champion” of men in art. His illustrations often exhibited a range of masculine types—the soldier, the sailor, the athlete, and the aesthete—but were almost always white men. His diverse representations of male interactions and physicality sometimes had homoerotic undertones.

This exhibition features Leyendecker’s paintings, ephemera, and a multimedia presentation of queer New York culture during his heyday. It considers Leyendecker’s imagery as artistic manifestations of his era’s shifting definitions of masculinity. His illustrations both shaped and reflected the spirit of his time, especially its gender, sexual, and racial norms. Focusing on these facets of his vast body of work, the exhibition broadens our understanding of American popular culture.

Mr. Albrecht developed the show’s themes, selected artifacts, wrote exhibition text, and worked with the design team.

More than 40 articles and mentions from an international array of media outlets, including the New York Times, Art News, Women’s Wear Daily, Gay & Lesbian Review, Time Out, Fast Company, El Pais, NBC News, CBS 2, and the Guardian. Social media coverage on sites such as Instagram and TikTok.

“a fascinating show”
Blake Gopnik, New York Times, June 29, 2023

Under Cover is organized by the New-York Historical Society from the collection of the National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, RI.
Coordinating curator: Rebecca Klassen, N-YHS curator of material culture
Content advisors: Elspeth Brown, Monica Miller, Michael Murphy
Exhibition designer: Sofia Lin
Graphic designer: Ivan Skrtic
Photographer: New-York Historical Society

Donald Albrecht