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Joseph Francis Kernan

Published: April 29, 2015

American illustrator J.F. Kernan (1878–1958) specialized in images of middle-class life for the covers and pages of popular magazines from the 1910s to 1940s. His nostalgic and often humorous illustrations celebrate the simple comforts of home, family, and outdoor recreation.

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, Kernan studied and taught at the Eric Pape School of Art in Boston before embarking on his career as a professional artist. He became a well-known artist whose works soon graced the covers of nearly every major magazine during the 1920s and 1930s including The Country Gentleman, Outdoor Life, Collier’s Liberty, Capper’s Farmer,The Elks, and the Associated Sunday. His work was also featured on calendars and advertisements of the period. His credits include 26 covers for The Saturday Evening Post between 1924 and 1936.

Covers by J.F. Kernan

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Kernan was 45 years old when his first Post cover appeared on newsstands May 31, 1924, depicting an old sailor, with a parrot on his shoulder, working on a model ship while a young sailor looks on. An outdoorsman as well as an athlete (he played professional baseball to help finance his art education), Kernan would frequently incorporate those themes into his work. Hunting and fishing were popular topics. His art captured, as he described it, “the human side of outdoor sports, hunting, fishing and dogs.”

Kernan’s final Post cover, The Sprinter, honored the Olympic Games. It was a fitting finish because so much of his life’s work commemorated sportsman and outdoor life.

Joseph Francis Kernan died in 1958.

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