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1927 Alan Stephens Foster Original Saturday Evening Post Cover Painting Safe On Base
Starting Bid - $25,000.00, Sold For - $55,100.00
Original Saturday Evening Post cover art by Alan Stephens Foster. This famous work is the actual original oil on canvas painting created by Alan Stephens Foster that appeared on the cover of the May 28, 1927 edition of The Saturday Evening Post. Original Saturday Evening Post cover paintings are extremely rare and highly prized. Most which survive reside in museums or in one of the world's several most important private and institutional collections of American illustration art. We have admired and known of the existence of this work for many years. The consignor, who has enjoyed owning and displaying the painting in his home for over thirty years, purchased the painting directly from the estate of legendary baseball executive Larry MacPhail in 1975. (Note: MacPhail was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978.) An early and extraordinary cover such as this, by one of the most highly esteemed of all Post cover artists, is a particularly rare and special find, and a great honor for Robert Edward Auctions to document and present at auction. This painting is what classic American illustration art is all about. One does not have to be an art expert or scholar to appreciate the quality of execution, the strong positive emotional impact, and the sense of innocent American nostalgia evoked by this painting. This is a museum-caliber example of classic American illustration art, literally a dream piece, from the heart of the Golden Age of Illustration Art, by one of its most acclaimed masters. Alan Stephens Foster was a contemporary of Norman Rockwell. Many have compared their work both in terms of style and content. Foster was one of the Post's most prolific cover artists, producing a total of thirty cover paintings for The Post between the years 1923 and 1933, almost all featuring youngsters, and many involving the world of sport. His cover output was tragically cut short as he passed away suddenly in 1934 at the young age of forty-two. Very few of the thirty original Saturday Evening Post cover artworks by Foster have survived. In fact, this is the only Foster original that we have been able to locate anywhere that features children playing ball, the subject matter for which he is most well known and revered. The painting, entitled Safe On Base, features a sandlot baseball scene of the era, with the youngster playing first base attempting to pull the old "hidden ball trick," waiting for the runner to step off first to tag him out. This play, now sometimes referred to as "the lost art in baseball," has long been popular in baseball games of the past, especially on playgrounds. (It has actually been used in the majors as well. There have been a reported 210 successful executions in the Major Leagues dating back to 1876.) Saturday Evening Post covers hold a special place in the heart of the collective consciousness of America. These are the covers that capture the spirit of American's cultural identity. For an artist, a Post cover piece not only afforded maximum exposure, but also conveyed his or her elite status within the illustration field. The Post was the first national magazine to reach a weekly subscription of three million, and by 1959 its circulation had grown to over six million. This was the magazine of the American people. Today, the fame of many of those artists, such as Norman Rockwell (the most popular and prolific of all Post contributors, with 323 cover illustrations to his credit), J. C. Leyendecker, and Stephan Dohanos, is largely predicated upon their many memorable Post cover illustrations. This painting, executed in oil on canvas, is one of four Post baseball covers painted by Foster. It is the only surviving example of these four (to the best of our knowledge) and it is also, in our opinion, his finest. Original Post cover artworks are rarely offered for public sale and those of this vintage are exceedingly rare. In years past we have sold Norman Rockwells and J. C. Leyendeckers and Stephan Dohanos paintings, among others. This is the first we have ever handled of Alan Stephens Foster, and it is without question the best Post cover and the single finest piece of illustration art we have ever had the privilege of handling. This is a museum-quality artwork that would be equally at home as a centerpiece in a world-class baseball collection or a world-class American art collection. It is an honor for Robert Edward Auctions to present this work as our catalog cover piece, and we thank Curtis Management, owners of the Saturday Evening Post, for its assistance in supplying to us the image of the published cover and permission to use it as well. The painting is accompanied by a letter of provenance from the owner documenting its purchase directly from Mrs. MacPhail. This letter notes that according to Mrs. MacPhail the painting was originally given to Babe Ruth, who hung the painting in the Yankee locker room, and later gave it to Casey Stengel, who in turn gave it to Larry MacPhail, who hung it in his office. A period notation on the reverse reads "Presented to Larry MacPhail." In Excellent to Mint condition. The painting is signed by Alan Stephens Foster in the lower right. Dimensions: 19 x 25 inches. Framed to total dimensions of 22 x 27 inches. Reserve $25,000. Estimate (Open). SOLD FOR $55,100.00
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