Original Illustrations from <i>Winnie the Pooh</i>, <i>Wizard of Oz</i> & <i>Krazy Kat</i> Among Top Lots at Swann Galleries
New York—Bidders competed actively for illustrations from beloved children’s classics, comic strips and well-known dust jacket artwork in Swann Galleries’ January 23 auction of 20th Century Illustration.
Christine von der Linn, Swann Galleries’ Art & Illustrated Books specialist, and John Larson, Swann Galleries’ 19th & 20th Century Literature specialist, said, “We were very pleased with the enthusiastic response from the participants in this sale. A flurry of telephone and internet activity joined the salesroom audience making for a fun and lively auction.”
The sale’s top lot was a pen and ink illustration by Ernest H. Shepard for A.A. Milne's beloved children’s book House at Pooh Corner, 1928. It brought $47,500*. The drawing illustrates a line from Chapter Three, “While Piglet was dreaming this happy dream, and Pooh was wondering again whether it was fourteen or fifteen, the Search for Small was still going on all over the Forest.” The characters Rabbit and Owl are depicted prominently as they seek out their friend Very Small Beetle, called “Small” for short.
Another treasured children’s work that demanded top dollar was W.W. Denslow’s pen and ink illustration for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which brought $30,720. This highly scarce piece depicting the Scarecrow and two Munchkins from 1900 was published as the first in-text illustration of the book’s Chapter Four. The majority of the original Denslow drawings for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are preserved in the Print Collection of The New York Public Library, with only two others ever previously sold at auction.
From a children’s book published nearly a century later was Gennady Spirin’s watercolor and tempera illustration Candy City, created for The Nutcracker, 1996, which set an auction record for the artist at $13,750. Another Spirin work, Magical Toyland, a watercolor for The Velveteen Rabbit, 2011, commanded $10,000.
A pair of early Dr. Seuss illustrations, which displayed the fancifulness of his children’s books, but were drawn for more adult uses, i.e. advertising, were The Mortal Enemies, pen and ink for Flit insecticide, circa 1930s, $12,800 and New Departure Ball Bearings, pen and ink, 1941, $12,500.
Iconic books covers for well-known titles included Marc Tauss’s mixed media cover art for Jay McInerney’s 1984 novel Bright Lights, Big City, released as a paperback via Vintage Books, and remaining on the cover for 25 years, $11,250; and Max Ginsburg’s oil on canvas cover art for the 1982 Bantam Books edition of John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, the coming-of-age novel that nearly every Generation X-er (and those born later) will remember for its ghostly, autumnal image, $10,000.
More classical book illustrations included Alexandra Exter’s two-sided mixed media with hand-painted text from a sonnet by Petrarch, in French, circa 1939, $8,125 and Rockwell Kent’s pen and ink drawing for the endpapers of L.M. Alexander’s Candy, 1934, $7,000.
Among works by comics and cartoon artists of note were George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Ignatz, inscribed watercolor, 1933, $21,250; Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts, an original four-panel comic strip with Charlie Brown and Lucy van Pelt, inscribed, 1956, $13,750 and several illustrations by Ronald Searle, including The Pair, two somewhat sexy watercolor variations of a Christmas advertisement for pantyhose, $6,875.
Also celebrating the female form were Howard Chandler Christy’s She was Made for Love and Capture, was Polly, mixed media, 1910, published in the story Being Engaged to Polly by Ellis Parker Butler in Good Housekeeping Magazine, November 1913, $16,250 and George Petty’s … So Take My Advice and Just Bet Your Shirt!, mixed media maquette for a 1941 Esquire centerfold, $7,500.
A run of works by Edward Gorey drew interest, including mixed media cover art for Haunted America, 1990 and The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder, 1997, each $8,125; as well as The Drum, The Doll, and the Zombie, 1994 and The Specter from the Magician’s Museum, 1998, $6,500 each.
Rounding out the top lots were a selection of pen and ink illustrations by the legendary Al Hirschfeld, among them I Love Lucy, pen and ink for Colliers magazine, 1954, $8,125; The Duchess Misbehaves, pen and ink for the New York Times, 1946, $7,500; and a proposed poster for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1956, starring Tallulah Bankhead, a show which never opened, $6,500.
For complete results, an illustrated catalogue, with prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, and may be viewed online at www.swanngalleries.com.
For further information, and to propose consignments to upcoming Illustration auctions, please contact Christine von der Linn at (212) 254-4710 ext. 20, firstname.lastname@example.org; or John Larson at ext.61, email@example.com.
*All prices include buyer’s premium.
First image: Ernest H. Shepard, Their Search for Small, pen and ink illustration for The House at Pooh Corner, 1928. Sold for $47,500 (including premium).
Second image: Marc Tauss, mixed media cover art for Bright Lights, Big City, 1984. Sold for $11,250 (including premium).