golf art – week of July 12, 2020

Original oil painting, c. 1937, by J.F. Kernan, from the collection of Dick McDonough. “Kernan illustrated magazine covers and ads for Saturday Evening Post and numerous other popular magazines,” McDonough wrote for his book, Great Golf Collections of the World (2013, co-authored by Pete Georgiady). “Kernan played professional baseball, which was highly unusual for an accomplished illustrator, so his sporting images of baseball, football, golf, fishing, and hunting accurately portray athletic action. His use of color and attention to detail make his art highly desirable.”

Original oil by J.F. Kernan

By Frank Cantrel Jr.

The world of golf art includes many colorful illustrations created by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Pyle, JC Leyendecker, and J.F. Kernan.  These paintings were created to be reproduced in magazines and newspapers, as posters, advertisements, and on products such as greeting cards and calendars.  

“With illustration art now accepted as a meaningful part of the fine arts spectrum, these works have earned a lofty role in art history to the point where they are now considered ‘the most American of American art,’ according to the National Museum of American Illustration.  Pictured here is the original artwork of Joseph Francis Kernan.  The broken clubhead hurtling through the air and the caddie’s need to cover his ears bring to life the agonizing frustration that the golf gods can inflict on golfers everywhere. Kernan’s artwork graced the cover of Capper’s Farmer magazine in April 1938, below — note how the artist altered the background.

Years earlier, Kernan used almost the same image on the magazine cover of Liberty magazine, July 25, 1925.

J.F. Kernan was a native of Brookline, Mass. He studied at the Eric Pape School of Art in Boston. After teaching for two years, he departed for an illustration career in New York City. He became a well-known artist whose credits include 26 covers of The Saturday Evening Post between 1924 and 1936. His works also appeared on the covers of nearly every major magazine during the 20s and 30s including The Saturday Evening PostThe Country Gentleman, Outdoor Life, Collier’s Liberty, Capper’s Farmer, The Elks, and the Associated Sunday Magazines.