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.
During the 1920s and ’30s, J.F. Kernan (1878-1958) illustrated nearly 30 Post covers. Some, such as his beautiful 1927 cover (below), 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.
His art featured, as he described it, “the human side of outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, and dogs.”
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.
His work also appeared on covers of major magazines of the time, including The Country Gentleman, Outdoor Life, and Collier’s Liberty.
Like most illustrators of this era, Kernan did artwork for ads. All of his art varied from the picturesque to wry comic situations.
His baseball cover, for example, is picturesque, but in the ad from 1926 for Fisk Tires 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.
(Interestingly, baseball was not just a mere spectator sport for Kernan. He helped finance his art education for a period of time as a professional baseball player.)
You can see the theme in Kernan’s 1920 cover for the Post‘s sister publication, The Country Gentleman.
If you’re familiar with Post covers, you’ll also notice that there’s some resemblance in Kernan’s early artwork to his contemporary, Norman Rockwell.
In this cover it is 1922, and one supposes there must be a downside to women getting the vote.
Reprints of The Saturday Evening Post covers are available at Art.com.
Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now