Auctions | October 4, 2016

Magazine Cover Art Steals the Show at Swann Galleries' Illustration Sale

34-Lepape copy.jpgNew York—Swann Auction Galleries broke five auction records with their first fall Illustration sale on September 29, 2016. Christine von der Linn, Swann Galleries’ Illustration Art Specialist, said, “the second sale was an important addition to the schedule as it allowed us to keep up the momentum of our successful January event. We really want to stay in the foreground of the illustration art market and yesterday's sale announced the seriousness of our commitment to do so.”

The top lot of the sale was a 1927 Vogue cover by Georges Lepape titled Le Miroir. The watercolor sold for $52,500, an auction record for the artist. It was closely followed by Erté’s 1922 cover for Harper’s Bazaar, La Cage Improviseé, which went for $45,000, another artist record.

Several artists had successful runs, selling 100% of lots offered, including Charles Addams and Aubrey Beardsley. Addams’s top lot, This is your room. If you should need anything, just scream, depicts familiar characters from the famous Addams Family. The 1943 watercolor sold for $20,000; the artist’s 1951 cartoon for the New Yorker, titled Noisy Neighbor, sold for $15,000. All four of the works by nineteenth-century illustrator Aubrey Beardsley sold above their estimates: the run of pen and ink drawings were decorations for the 1893-94 Dent edition of Le Morte d’Arthur. Rose Bush led these with $12,500.

Tadd and Todd is a story by Theodore Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss, published in Redbook in 1950 and largely forgotten until the publication of The Bippolo Seed and Other Lots Stories, 2011. The current watercolor, depicting Tadd on a quest to distinguish himself from his twin Todd, shows publication notes and rarely seen marginalia; it sold to a private collector for $23,750.

An unpublished illustration by Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of the popular Madeleine series, sold well above its estimate at $10,625. The watercolor, titled Does Chef Find the Pheasant Pleasant?, shows a young sous chef nervously presenting the colorful fowl to his stern boss. Works by Winsor McCay performed well, each selling above their estimate. 200 Million Light Years was published in 1931 with the caption, “Here you see the feeble eye of primitive man contrasted with the super-eye of a 200-inch telescope…” The charming pen and ink drawing sold for $12,500. An earlier illustration by McCay, Death at the Races, circa 1910, brought $10,625.

Further auction records were achieved: Harvey Kidder’scirca 1975 cover for Reader’s Digest, Christmas Eve in New York (Plaza Hotel), watercolor, ink and gouache, sold for $3,000. Noted W.P.A. muralist Allen Saalberg saw an auction record with his gouache set designs for The Green Pastures, a 1936 film portraying whimsical bible traditions of southern African Americans. The series of 22 designs sold for $7,250 to a private institution.

Von der Linn added, “The sale showed us that collectors are still eager to acquire high-quality illustration art. The results will inform our decisions about which illustrators and images to concentrate on for our spring sale-with two auctions per year, we have more leeway to curate smaller, stronger sales.”

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

Image: Lot 34 Georges Lepape, Le Miroir, watercolor and ink, cover for Vogue, November 1927. Sold September 29, 2016 for $52,500. (Pre-sale estimate: $6,000 to $9,000)