Monday, August 17, 2009
ALEXANDER LEYDENFROST (1888-1961)
Suppose that you were a baron, born of noble blood, but you lost your rank and title after the heir to the throne was murdered. Then let's say your country declared war on its neighbor but lost the war after a long bloody battle and as a result, your country was dissolved and the economy collapsed so you lost your family money. Then to make the story interesting, how about if we say that the communists took over but were kicked out in another war. And let's suppose further that you and your good friends, movie actors Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre, decided to flee the country but before you could leave, you were severely injured in a sword fight over the honor of a woman so that you were unable to get around or perform conventional work when you arrived in your new land.
With that type of background, what kind of job would you possibly be qualified to perform?
Obviously, an illustrator.
Sandor Leidenfrost was a baron in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. His family's title dated back to the 16th century. In the tradition of nobility everywhere, Baron Leidenfrost studied fencing and fought duels and lived off his family money. But he also studied the arts and became a master of perspective. (It's always good to have something to fall back on, even when you are a baron).
After the unpleasent events described above, Leidenfrost changed his name and emigrated to New York City. Because of his wounds from the duel, he could not walk around and apply for a normal job but he drew and painted a portfolio of artwork that Lugosi and Lorre shopped around for him. On the strength of that portfolio, they obtained enough assignments to support the whole group. After Leydenfrost recovered, Lugosi and Lorre left for Hollywood and stardom, while Leydenfrost prospered as an illustrator. He specialized in dramatic pictures of aircraft and spaceships; during World War II he painted a famous series of 35 illustrations of warplanes for Esquire magazine.
He also worked for magazines such as Life and Colliers. He was well known his detailed and meticulous drawings with charcoal and watercolor.
The moral of the story is that when some pain-in-the-ass illustrator starts putting on airs and acting like he is royalty, be careful-- he just may be.