An athlete and outdoorsman, artist Joseph Francis Kernan was known as the “poor man’s Norman Rockwell.” But Kernan was a superb illustrator in his own right.
“Model Three Masted Ship”
During the 1920s and ’30s, J.F. Kernan (1878-1958) illustrated nearly 30 Post covers. Some, such as this beautiful 1927 cover, depicted the seaside or old sailors. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, Joseph Francis Kernan attended the Eric Pape School of Art in Boston and later taught at the school before embarking on his art career.
“Hunter and Spaniel”
His art featured, as he described it, “the human side of outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, and dogs.”
His work also appeared on covers of major magazines of the time, including The Country Gentleman, Outdoor Life, and Collier’s Liberty. His art varied from the picturesque to wry comic situations.
Baseball was not a mere spectator sport for Kernan. He helped finance his art education for a period of time as a professional baseball player.
“ 1926 Fisk Tire Ad”
Like most illustrators of this era, Kernan did artwork for ads. Also with a baseball theme is this ad from 1926 for Fisk Tires, although, instead of a pro batter, we have a couple of boys about to get in trouble for watching a game through a peephole instead of paying admission—not an uncommon theme for the 1920s.
Another theme illustrators enjoyed was the nosy post office worker (or neighbor or party-line sharer). This one is from 1920.
Two years later Norman Rockwell did this Post cover of a nosy postal clerk.
“Women Must Give Their Ages”
The Rockwell resemblance appears in Kernan’s Country Gentleman covers. CG was a sister publication to the Post for many years.
In this cover it is 1922, and one supposes there must be a downside to women getting the vote.
“Tying on a Fly”
From humor back to his outdoorsman passions, one of Kernan’s finest works is this fisherman tying a fly from 1929. The color palette is subtle but stunning, and the rippling water looks good enough to jump into.
Reprints of The Saturday Evening Post covers are available at Art.com.
If you’re interested in seeing more of Kernan’s work, or cover art from another Post artist, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.