Auctions | January 8, 2014

Book and Magazine Art, Cartoons, Illustrations at Swann Galleries on Jan. 23


New York—Swann Galleries’ 2014 auction of 20th Century Illustration on January 23 offers rare, sought-after original works of art by well-known illustrators, cartoonists and children’s book creators, including early examples by Dr. Seuss, delightfully dark works by Edward Gorey and illustrations from magazines ranging from The New Yorker to Playboy.

There are five original illustrations by Dr. Seuss—aka Theodor Geisel—which include a circa 1930s drawing for a Flit Insecticide ad depicting two insects facing off against one another with Flit guns darting from their eyes, titled The Mortal Enemies (estimate: $15,000 to $20,000)From the dawn of the Second World War, is Seuss’s pen and ink advertisement for New Departure Ball Bearings, with a pipe-smoking man operating a motorized contraption that employs dogs on a treadmill—two of the canines drawn for this ad are similar to those seen in the book The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, published 16 years later ($15,000 to $20,000).

There is also an original gouache for an advertisement—likely a billboard—of a goat munching on some Seussian machine parts, with the tagline, “All it needs is ... Holly Sugar,” circa 1950s ($30,000 to $40,000). Predating these advertisements is a 1929 pen and ink with watercolor for Judge magazine, also with a preliminary pencil sketch, which is signed with his short-lived “Dr. S.” signature ($18,000 to $25,000).

Another beloved children’s author, Maurice Sendak, is well represented in the sale, with several personal drawings and inscriptions to his dear friend and caretaker Peter Caponera. These include a “Happy Birthday” greeting in watercolor and ink, depicting Peter Rabbit—both a nod to his friend’s first name and to Sendak’s love of Beatrix Potter—signed “with much affection,” July 6, 1976 ($12,000 to $15,000) and a pen and ink drawing of a Wild Things monster wearing a sweater with the letter P on it, from February 1973, also warmly inscribed, on the front endpaper of a copy of the book ($4,000 to $6,000).

More recognizable characters can be found in an E.H. Shepard pen and ink illustration for chapter three of A.A. Milne’s House at Pooh Corner, “Their search for Small,” featuring Rabbit and Owl, 1928 ($10,000 to $15,000).

There are three illustrations by Ludwig Bemelmans, including one from his celebrated Madeline series, a pen and ink depicting Madeline, Miss Clavel and the other girls in a taxi rushing to a train station, 1958 ($4,000 to $6,000).

Celebrated contemporary children’s book illustrator Gennedy Spirin is also featured, with two illustrations for a 1996 edition of The Nutcracker, one a watercolor and tempera of Candy City, the other a watercolor titled Supper for Mrs. Mouserinks ($10,000 to $15,000 each); as well as a watercolor illustration for The Velveteen Rabbit, 2011 ($8,000 to $12,000).

Equally fanciful is an oil on panel by David Bowers for the children’s fantasy book, A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones, 2001. The dynamic cover art, as with most of Bowers's paintings, shows his mastery of the alla prima technique, a style developed in 15th century Netherlands that creates a luminosity without visible brushstrokes, resulting in an airbrushed look ($3,000 to $5,000).

Also from the fantasy genre is a classic W.W. Denslow illustration from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, original pen and ink on paper, showing the Scarecrow and two Munchkins, one of only three drawings from the book ever offered at auction, 1900 ($10,000 to $15,000); a preliminary drawing for a plate in Frank Frazetta’s 1975 Lord of the Rings portfolio, pen, pencil and ink on paper depicting Bilbo and a Warg ($8,000 to $12,000); as well as a related item, David Levine’s pen and ink drawings of J.R.R. Tolkien at a typewriter in the jaws of Smaug as Bilbo, brandishing Sting, and three of the dwarves, advance, for Esquire magazine, September, 1966 ($500 to $750).

There is an abundance of original book-cover art, many examples of which became iconic images of the literary works they graced and, in some cases, defined an era. Marc Tauss’s multimedia work created in 1984 for Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, was emblematic of the book and remained on the cover for 25 years ($8,000 to $12,000). Fred Marcellino’s airbrush, watercolor and color pencil rendering of four primary-colored notebooks remains a visual link to Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook ($5,000 to $7,500). Also by Marcellino is the surreal window on the front of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s novel World’s End, using the same media, 1987 ($4,000 to $6,000).

There are early 1980s oil paintings by Max Ginsburg for the covers of classic coming-of-age novels including his ghostly, autumnal image for John Knowles’s emotionally charged story of private school boys on the eve of World War II, A Separate Peace ($10,000 to $15,000); and the Newbery Medal Award winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by famed young adult literature author Mildred D. Taylor, showing children huddled together on their porch, braving a blaze set on their property ($8,000 to $12,000).

Several of Edward Gorey’s gothic and witty dust jacket designs for the mystery novels of John Bellairs and Brad Strickland from the 1990s are offered, most accompanied by the ink layout of the cover and spine lettering, which he also drew.

Notable magazine covers include Charles Archibald MacLellan’s oil on canvas of a woman with an autumn foliage bouquet for Modern Priscilla magazine, October 1926 ($3,000 to $4,000); E.H. Shepard’s colorful cover for Punch Almanack, 1937 ($4,000 to $6,000) and New Yorker covers by Charles Addams, Constantin Alajálov and R.O. Blechman, in addition to interior New Yorker cartoons by George Booth, Helen Hokinson, Barbara Shermund and James Thurber.

From the pages of Playboy come two of Richard Taylor’s cartoons from 1966 and ‘67, one of fathers in maternity ward waiting room, the other of an effeminate Frankenstein monster ($2,000 to $3,000 each). 


A fine selection of comic strips features Dick Browns’ Hagar the Horrible; Al Capp’s Li’L Abner; Rick Parker’s Beavis and Butt-Head; Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey; and an original four-panel Peanuts strip by Charles M. Schulz depicting Charlie Brown and Lucy, inscribed to a friend, 1956 ($6,000 to $9,000).

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 23. The illustrations will be on public exhibition Friday, January 17, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, January 18 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday, January 21 and Wednesday, January 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, January 23, from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Christine von der Linn at (212) 254-4710, extension 20,; or John Larson at (212) 254-4710, extension 61,

Live online bidding is available via Invaluable. Click on the Invaluable link on the homepage.

First image: Max Ginsburg's oil on canvas for John Knowles's A Separate Peace, 1981-82 (estimate: $10,000 to $15,000).

Second image: Four-panel Peanuts strip by Charles M. Schulz depicting Charlie Brown and Lucy, inscribed to a friend, 1956 ($6,000 to $9,000).