Wouldn’t it be great to hop aboard a time machine and sit down with the father of card collecting while he painstakingly placed his T206 cards in the rudimentary albums of the day? How about being on the field in Baltimore some 99 years ago when the photographer grabbed the first image of Babe Ruth to be used on a promotional trading card?
Thanks to artist Jim Burke, we now can. He has created a series of illustrations for his upcoming children’s book (yet untitled) on the history of baseball cards. Later this month, some of Burke’s original paintings used in the creation of the book will be up for bid at Robert Edward Auctions. While the book is geared to children, the illustrations may lure fans of hobby history as well.
Inspired by the 1914 Babe Ruth Baltimore News rookie card, one painting pictures Ruth during his first season of professional ball as a member of Jack Dunn’s Baltimore Orioles. Ruth is captured wearing his Baltimore team sweater as a photographer stands in the background behind him preparing to take photos of Ruth and his teammates for use in the Baltimore News card set.
A second original oil-on-board painting features Burdick. The painting (18 x 23.5 inches) has been framed to total dimensions of 29 x 33 inches and captures Burdick as he meticulously mounts his cards into albums at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where his collection is housed today.
Noted for his attention to detail, the T206 cards in the painting represent actual cards and there’s even an American Card Catalog sitting on his desk Burdick’s inclusion in Burke’s upcoming book is well deserved. No history of baseball cards and collecting would be complete without chronicling Burdick’s enormous contributions to the hobby. His American Card Catalog was the first serious attempt to document and categorize cards for collectors. It was the American Card Catalog that assigned to such sets as T206 and R319 the catalog reference numbers still in use today.
Burdick spent the last twenty years of his life organizing and mounting his vast collection in albums for permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He died in 1963, just months after completing this lifelong project. His life’s work is part of American folklore and his collection is among the most famous ones at the Met. Burke’s artwork is familiar to REA bidders. His work appeared in both the 2010 and 2012 auctions, including, most famously, his oil-on-board painting of Honus Wagner posing in Carl Horner’s studio for the photograph that was used on his T206 tobacco card (Lot 1316, May 2010, sold for $11,750).
Titled The Babe 1914, Burke’s 30×40” Ruth painting has faithfully recreated a vintage Cracker Jack and D&M Sporting Goods advertisement on the outfield wall, which helps to instantly transport the viewer back in time to 1914. The painting has been framed.
Each painting carries a $1,000 reserve. and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever, written by Jane Yolen (Philomel Books, New York, 2010). His artwork was shown in The Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition 2008 in London, and in the Society of Illustrators’ Icons & Images: 50 Years of Illustration. He is a Gold Medal recipient from the Society of Illustrators, has had five of his books honored at The Original Art Show (NYC) and is included in its Museum of American Illustration Permanent Collection. Burke taught at Pratt Institute and Syracuse University, and has lectured at The Norman Rockwell Museum, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and The National Baseball Hall of Fame, among others. He is currently the Illustration Chair at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.
Bidding in REA’s catalog event begins April 20 by FAX, phone, or the Internet via their website. To review the catalog online, learn more about Robert Edward Auctions, receive a complimentary copy of the catalog or inquire about consignments, visit http://www.robertedwardauctions.com.