When graphic designer and illustrator Seymour Chwast first set eyes on John James Audubon’s Northern Cardinals, he immediately thought of Major League Baseball. The emblem for the St. Louis Cardinals—two red birds perched on a bat, proudly splayed across the players’ chests—had always struck him as unique. But he also saw a deeper connection between the jocks and the songbirds. “I like the idea of baseball: One person with a whole team in front of him, facing great odds. There’s something very mythic about it.” The cardinal endures its own gritty battles, coping with the curveballs the Northeast winter hurls its way.
So the octogenarian, whose vast body of work ranges from cartoonish to high-concept, fused the 189-year-old painting with a 134-year-old mascot, drawing the birds in acrylics and pastels to contrast the flat lines of the player. Chwast, who founded Push Pin Studios and designed the first McDonald’s Happy Meal box in 1979, is renowned for creating witty, culturally relevant works that often give a nod to history. Here, he offers a playful twist on one of our country’s greatest artists and favorite pastimes.