Diamond Visions: Baseball’s Greatest Illustration Art, Part 4
Welcome to Part Four of this five-part series. The best is not behind you but arguably ahead: it may easily be held that images 16-20 below are the equal of, if not superior to, those that preceded it in my admittedly quirky rankings. (I doubt, for example, that anyone but yours truly would have awarded James Daugherty’s newspaper cartoon from 1914, below, a place in the pantheon.) Illustration art will tend to have more graphic pop than fine art, and it will draw the eye to a central object while treating the background detail with scant attention. But I particularly like the “small stuff,” and this taste may go some way toward explaining why I have selected the twenty-five exemplars depicted in this series. In Image No. 16, for example, the intent of the artist and the publisher–Ebenezer Butterick, the inventor of graded sewing patterns–is to focus on the fashions; Butterick issued a fashion plate to accompany each “quarterly report” of patterns. But look at the background–a ball game in progress at what is clearly Brooklyn’s Union Grounds, with its distinctive pagoda, erected even before the park’s proprietor, William Cammeyer, thought of playing baseball here. The Union Grounds began life as a skating rink, and this was a changing room (for more on this park, see http://www.brooklynballparks.com/union.html).
The clubs depicted are, left to right, Cincinnati Red Stockings, undefeated in 1869; Empire of New York; Atlantic of Brooklym; Star of Brooklyn; unknown; and Mutual of New York. The name of the lithographic publisher (“Hatch & Co., 218 Broadway, Herald Building, N. Y.”) appears in smaller lettering in the lower right corner. The name of the artist, John (“Jno.”) Schuller, appears in small script on the fence to the far right. Fewer than ten examples of this print are known to survive.
Writing in 1949, James Daugherty (1887–1974) declared that modern art was nothing less than “liberating and expansive, rousing and freeing human consciousness from materialism to infinite possibilities of living, creating universal harmony, energy and renewal.” In 1913, his eyes were opened to a world of new possibilities by the landmark Armory Show and, as he later described it, Daugherty “went modern with a vengeance.” In his Futurist-inspired works, swirling and intersecting figures were abstracted and fragmented in the nonstop movement of baseball and dancing. The painting on which the newspaper cartoon above is based–“Three Base Hit,” in pen and ink and opaque watercolor on paper–resides in the collection of the Whitney Museum, which also purchased this newspaper print. See: http://collection.whitney.org/object/849
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. All that is missing from Dick Perez’s recreation of Opening Day in New York, April 29, 1886 is the rhyme’s silver sixpence in her shoe. Reconstructing the vista from a series of detective-camera snapshots taken from the stands on that day, Perez created a panoramic view of not only a ball game but the era itself. Later issued a limited-edition print, “The National Pastime” began life as the wraparound cover of SABR’s publication by that name, in Spring 1984. A portion of this image graces the book jacket for my own Baseball in the Garden of Eden.
Charles Dana Gibson is today remembered as the originator of “The Gibson Girl,” the long-haired, athletic beauty featured in so many of his ironic social tableaux. But he was a baseball fan, too, who specialized in depicting the facial expressions that accompanied hope and despair in the stands. This lesser known work is my favorite, though. It appeared in Harper’s Weekly in monochrome, of course; the coloring is later.
Norman Rockwell created so many now famous baseball paintings for The Saturday Evening Post that I could not choose among them. Instead, I have selected this first of his baseball works printed in color, published when he had just turned twenty. Some baseball drawings had appeared previously, in the May 1913 issue of Boys’ Life.
Illustrations 21-25 tomorrow!