1952 Topps Duke Snider Bill Forsyth Pop Art Baseball Card Painting (1977)

Sold For: $823

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1295

Item Year: 1977

Category: Post-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Original acrylic on canvas painting of Duke Snider's 1952 Topps baseball card by artist Bill Forsyth. Signed and dated by the artist ("Forsyth 1977") in the lower left. Mounted on a wood frame backing to total dimensions of 29 x 41. Signed by Duke Snider in the upper left corner of the background mounting (not on the painting).

The baseball card paintings of artist Bill Forsyth created a sensation in the 1970s. Possessed with a spirit of nostalgia, but in the tradition of American Pop Art, Forsyth painted images of old baseball cards in a huge, larger-than-life format. His works drew attention to baseball cards, and for the first time ever presented these relics of childhood as a higher art form. This was a time when baseball cards as a hobby were just beginning to receive attention from the press as an area of serious collector interest by adults. The nostalgia craze in America was in its infancy. Newspaper articles were beginning to document the growing adult collector interest, and promote the increasing monetary values which somehow seemed to give the field respect. Conventions were still a novelty, and received extensive press coverage every time a show opened its doors. It was against this backdrop in the mid-1970s that artist Bill Forsyth began to have gallery showings featuring his paintings of images of old baseball cards in a huge, larger-than-life format. His paintings were unlike anything ever seen before, drawing tremendous attention from the art world, the media, and the public. In addition to generating national attention at formal art gallery showings in New York City, which were covered by such prestigious papers as The New York Times , Forsyth’s baseball-card paintings were chosen for display by the Smithsonian Institute at its 1981 “Champions of Sport” art exhibit. Examples were also displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Chicago Historical Society in Chicago, and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, among other highly respected museum venues. Never before had baseball cards in any form, however deserving in the eyes of collectors, been recognized as art by the media or the public, let alone by the established art world.

In part it was their scale. They were giant, each measuring about 2 x 3 feet, and on thick canvas board, which gave them a dimension appropriate for their scale. In part it was that the cards were “beat up,” painstakingly created with creases, and with even the actual corners of the canvases rounded, which gave them a profound realism that somehow struck a chord. In part it was their execution. They were perfect. Anyone familiar with the images was awestruck. The art shows were an outrageous spectacle, showcasing rows of giant baseball cards on huge canvases for sale at prices that started at $800 at first, and as demand exceeded Forsyth’s abilities to produce more canvases, rising to $2,000 per painting. This was the art world, where these types of numbers were not unusual, but at the same time, this was 25+ years ago. To put things into perspective, a T206 Wagner was at this time worth just several thousand dollars. Forsyth could have sold many more paintings, if it had been possible to produce them, but his process required between 18 and 24 solid working days per painting. Because of this, in the early 1980s he stopped painting baseball cards altogether. In the end, as incredible as it sounds, especially for all the attention they received, his entire series of the baseball card paintings numbered only seventy-six.

In 2005, Robert Edward Auctions presented a spectacular collection of fifteen of Forsyth's baseball card paintings in its April auction, one of which was this Duke Snider card painting. As a testament to their popularity, the fifteen paintings sold in 2005 are the only examples to ever resurface and this Duke Snider is the first of even those fifteen we have ever seen offered again at public auction. Disclosure per section 13 of REA's terms and conditions: This lot has been consigned from the personal collection of an executive of REA's internet software service provider. Please Note: Due to the size and/or weight of this lot, shipping costs (depending on where it is sent and its method of shipping) may be substantial. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+.


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