Auctions | March 24, 2017

Children's Characters Are Serious Business At Swann Galleries' Illustration Art Sale

76-Corcos copy.jpgNew York—On Tuesday, March 21, Swann Galleries held their spring auction of Illustration art to a packed room. The biannual sale offers original works of art intended for publication; it finished with an 82% sell-through rate, and many works exceeded their high estimates.

The top lot of the sale was the original watercolor for the cover of the first French edition of the third Babar book, Le Roi Babar, 1933, by Jean de Brunhoff. It was purchased by a collector for $40,000*. A watercolor by de Brunhoff’s son Laurent, who carried on the Babar series after his father’s death, was also sold; Babar dans l’?le aux Oiseau, 1969, reached $7,000.

Skeletons and Hiding Figures, circa early 1980s, achieved the highest hammer price for a work by Edward Gorey in the last 12 years; with the buyer’s premium, it sold for $18,750. With 12 original works, the auction offered the largest selection of works by Edward Gorey in a single sale. Further highlights included a watercolor, pen and ink drawing of Mr. Earbrass, 1970s, purchased by a collector for $11,875.

The sale featured five works by Charles Addams that came from the Charles & Tee Addams Foundation and had never previously appeared at auction. The run was led by a 1957 gouache and watercolor cover for The New Yorker, titled Scuba Galleon, and a cartoon for the same publication titled Z Line Subway, into which Addams had snuck three characters from his popular show, The Addams Family (each $16,250). Another highlight from the selection was Addams Family Barge, a 1984 advertisement for Mobil Oil that featured the entire freaky family, including the Pugsley’s pet octopus Artistotle and Thing, as Addams had originally conceived him ($14,300).

Two original Peanuts comic strips by Charles Schulz each surpassed their high estimates. A rare early depiction of Snoopy in Here comes the big Polar Bear stalking across the snow!, 1957, was purchased by an institution for $12,500. Snoopy in his more familiar form also starred in the 1974 pen and ink strip Mister Sensitive, which reached $11,875.

A mesmerizing undated egg tempera painting by Lucille Corcos titled Weekend Chores broke the artist’s previous auction record to sell for $10,000. Another record went to John C. Damron for his 1946 oil painting Pet Store, which flew past its high estimate of $1,200 to sell for $5,460.

As is customary for Illustration Art sales at Swann Galleries, there was a robust section of covers and cartoons for The New Yorker. All but one of the 25 offered lots found buyers, surpassing the high estimate for the section by over $10,000. Available works spanned the lifetime of the publication, the earliest being Summer and Winter Activities, a gouache cover by Theodore Haupt published in 1933, which broke its previous auction record to sell for $1,300.

Christine von der Linn, Director of Illustration Art, said of the sale, "Our commitment to offering fresh-to-market material paid off in a sale that was heavily attended and flooded with phone and Internet bidding throughout. Kids, creatures, and cartoons shone as the clear fan favorites in the sale. Perhaps in a time of unusually high political discontent, the pure joy of illustration art also serves as a comfort and panacea."

The next sale of Illustration Art at Swann Galleries will be held in Fall 2017. For more information, contact Christine von der Linn at

Image: Lot 76 Lucille Corcos, Weekend Chores, egg tempera on masonite. Sold March 21, 2017 for $10,000, a record for the artist. (Pre-sale estimate $5,000 to $7,000.)