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1914-05-01 The Popular
1925-03-21 Liberty
1916-02-01 Top-Notch
1926 Ad for Fisk Tires
1916-03 Baseball
1928-04-14 Collier's
1916-12-20 The Popular
1928-11-03 Sat Even Post
1918-05-04 Judge
1931-06 Outdoor Life
1923-11-24 Country Gent
1935-05 Capper's Farmer









Joseph Francis Kernan was born September 13, 1878 in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, John Kernan, was born in 1848 in Ireland and moved to Boston in 1870. His mother, Elizabeth Murphy, was born in 1850 in Canada and moved to Boston in 1861. The parents married on April 2, 1872. They had four children, all sons, John (b.1873), William (b.1875), Joseph (b.1878), and Edward (b.1881). The family lived in at 341 Harvard Street in Brookline, a suburb of Boston, where the father was a teamster in the waterfront warehouse district. All four sons attended the local public schools in Brookline.

In September of 1892 Joseph F. Kernan began to attend Brookline High School, where he became interested in a career as a commercial artist. His other interests were golf, swimming, and baseball. His athletic achievements on the baseball team were celebrated in the local newspapers.

In June of 1898, at the age of eighteen, he graduated from Brookline High School. Having developed a local reputation as a high school athlete, his first job was playing professional baseball in the Boston area.

On April 25, 1901 his mother, Elizabeth Murphy Kernan, died at the age of fifty in Brookline. After this tragic loss, the Kernan family left their home on Harvard Street and moved five blocks north to 142 Pleasant Street.

In September of 1901 J. F. Kernan began to attend the Eric Pape School of Art in the Farragut Building, corner of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. Eric Pape (1870-1938) was an American artist who had studied in Paris with Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) at the Ecole des Baeux Arts. His art school had only been open for three years.

On June 4, 1902 The Boston Globe reported the Eric Pape School had opened its fourth annual public exhibition of student work, and that J. F. Kernan was awarded Second Prize. He received a bronze medal for portraiture, third prize for most original composition in black and white oils, and a one-year free scholarship.

In 1903 the Brookline City Directory listed Joseph F. Kernan as a "student" living at 142 Pleasant Street.

In 1904, after completing his art school training, J. F. Kernan was hired to teach drawing at the Eric Pape School of Art.

On January 11, 1905 the father, John Kernan, died at the age of fifty-six in Brookline, MA.

After the loss of their father, the Kernan brothers left their home on Pleasant Street and moved to 82 Brook Street in Brookline. Rather than move in with his brothers, Joseph F. Kernan decided to seek his fortune as a newspaper cartoonist, so he left Massachusetts and moved to New York City, where he lived as a "lodger" at a Y.M.C.A. at 340 East 23rd Street. His first work in NYC was as a cartoonist on the staff of a local newspaper.

On 1911 Joseph Francis Kernan married Marion Moulton Adsit. She was born on September 12, 1882 in Chelsea, MA. The married couple moved to 665 West 178th Street in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan.

By 1912 Joseph F. Kernan had quit his newspaper job to focus on finding freelance art assignments. He worked at home in a spare room, where he was soon painting cover assignments for Street & Smith's pulp magazine, Top-Notch, The Popular, as well as Baseball Magazine, and the humor magazine, Judge.

On March 1, 1915 the artist's first child, Susan Elizabeth Kernan, was born.

On September 12, 1918, during the Great War, the artist reported for draft registration, where he was recorded to be five-ten, 155 pounds, with blue eyes, blond hair, and a light complexion. As a married man, and father of an infant daughter, he was not selected for military service.

By 1920 he and his family had moved to a bigger apartment in the same neighborhood at 835 West 179th Street.

During the 1920s he regularly painted covers for the top magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, The Country Gentleman, Capper's Farmer, Liberty, The Elks and Outdoor Life. He also painted advertising assignments for Fisk Tires, Pratt & Lambert, and International Harvester.

In May of 1922 Joseph F. Kernan scored the top prize in the qualifying round of the Annual Golf Tournament of the Newspaper Golf Club at Van Cortlandt Park links.

In 1925 the family moved to 875 West 181st Street. The artist's youngest brother, Edward H. Kernan, moved to live with them in NYC, where he worked as a hotel manager.

On March 2, 1925 the artist's second child, Lydia Coolidge Kernan, was born.

In 1929 the artist and his family left NYC and moved to Woodbury, Connecticut, while they also kept an apartment in NYC at 375 West 101st Street.

In the 1930s Joseph F. Kernan was commissioned to paint calendars, posters, billboards and jig-saw puzzles. During the Great Depression he had steady assignments painting covers for This Week, a nationwide Sunday supplement magazine.

By 1940 the family had moved to the Hudson View Gardens complex on Pinehurst Avenue in Upper Manhattan.

By 1941 the artist and his family lived at 132 Pondfield Road in Bronxville, NY.

On August 16, 1941 the artist's eldest daughter, Susan E. Kernan, married Augustus T. Wilson (1908-1984). He was a graduate of NYU in the Class of '31. She had attended Horace Mann School for Girls, Teachers College at Columbia University, and the Traphagen School of Design, which was founded by Ethel Traphagen (1883-1963). The school was located at 1680 Broadway, near 53rd Street.

In 1942 the Kernan family lived at 835 West 179th Street, beside the George Washington Bridge.

In 1945 the artist's first granddaughter was born, Susan C. Wilson. That same year his younger daughter, Lydia Kernan, worked on the editorial staff at Parade, a Sunday supplement magazine with nationwide newspaper syndication. She was a graduate of Bronxville High School and had attended the Katherine Gibbs School in NYC.

On July 27, 1946 the artist's younger daughter, Lydia Coolidge Kernan, married Frank Austin Heywood (1924-1963). He was a graduate of Yale, and was just beginning a distinguished career in advertising. His career eventually led to Hollywood, where he did advertising for Paramount. They had two children, Heidi Heywood (b.1948), and Scot Kernan Heywood (b.1951).

In 1956 the artist and his wife lived at 12 Meadow Avenue in Bronxville, NY.

Joseph F. Kernan died at the Bayberry Nursing Home in New Rochelle, NY, at the age of seventy-nine on June 6, 1958. His wife, Marion Moulton Kernan, died six years later, at the age of eighty-two, on November 29, 1964.

                           © David Saunders 2021

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