Baseball Magazine was founded in December 1907 by Boston sportswriter Jacob Morse. As the first monthly American magazine devoted entirely to baseball, the publication had the time and space to run lengthier, more in-depth feature-length articles compared to weekly publications such as Sporting Life and The Sporting News. Morse’s vision of a deluxe publication filled with eye-catching illustrations and engaging quality content brought the magazine early commercial success.

Joseph Francis Kernan was the perfect illustrator to capture the spirit of the game, and therefore the attention of Baseball Magazine readers. Kernan played baseball throughout high school, and reportedly played professionally in order to finance his art education and early career in commercial art.

J.F. Kernan. The Roaring Crowd. Original cover for Baseball Magazine, published July 1917. Asking $95,000

Kernan’s July 1917 cover for Baseball Magazine turns attention away from the players and toward the crowd as he captures the individuality of each figure and brings his characteristic touch of humor to the scene. He cleverly shows the viewer that just as much action happens in the stands as on the field, and the joy of the game often comes from experiencing it in the crowd. We’ve certainly all been seated next to that rambunctious fan who is a little too loud while bumping into us in the heat of their excitement. However, that is also part of the experience. The men may sport the collared shirts, ties, and caps of a bygone era, but their passion for the game is timeless and immensely relatable.

J.F. Kernan. The Slide. Original cover for Baseball Magazine, published July 1918. Asking $95,000

Baseball Magazine cover for July 1918 shows an exciting play at the plate as a player dramatically slides towards home base. The player seems confident he’s about to score even if we can’t see if the catcher is in position. Surely Kernan knew this thrilling feeling well through his own experience as an athlete. This painting was formerly in the collection of James “Rip” Collins, the famed first baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1930s, and former member of the “Gas House Gang.”

J.F. Kernan. Sliding to Base. Original cover for Capper’s Farmer magazine, published June 1933. Asking $75,000

Kernan’s June 1933 cover for Capper’s Farmer magazine shows a similar scene of a player sliding into home, although we see much less confidence from the runner as the catcher is in position and the throw appears to be on time. Kernan’s more mature style brings with it a heightened sense of drama. The player is moving with such speed that he’s lost his cap, but will he be quick enough to get to the plate under the tag? We can only hope!

J.F. Kernan. Three Baseball Boys. Original cover for Capper’s Farmer magazine, published June 1928. Asking $79,000

While the previously mentioned paintings seem to focus on professional teams, a June 1928 cover for Capper’s Farmer magazine captures the nostalgia of youth. The local sandlot was not only a place to bond with friends on warm summer evenings, but also a place to hone playing skills and learn sportsmanlike conduct. Though the stakes are arguably lower than the big leagues, the player yelling and stomping his feet while pressing his fist into the ump’s belly while arguing the call shows the game means just as much.

J.F. Kernan. Sliding Into Home. Original illustration for unidentified publication. Asking $95,000


Joseph Francis Kernan specialized in images of middle-class America that played on the viewers’ sense of humor and nostalgia. His images graced the covers and pages of major magazines from the 1910s through the 1940s, such as The Saturday Evening Post, Outdoor Life, and Liberty. As an avid outdoorsman and athlete, Kernan said he aimed to capture the “human side of outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, and dogs.” Though Kernan’s reputation has historically been overlooked in favor of his more famous peers like Norman Rockwell, modern collectors are finally beginning to give Kernan the recognition he deserves as we see an increased demand for Kernan’s original paintings in our contemporary art market.



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