January 2013 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Sendak, Marcellino, Baskin at Auction

The Swann Galleries sale of twentieth-century illustration art on January 24 seems destined for success. Its biggest draw (pun intended) being a very fine collection of works written and/or illustrated by the late Maurice Sendak. He was collectible before his death last May, and, as it goes, more so now. The sale has also garnered an unusual amount of "mainstream" media buzz. And, the sale falls during Bibliography Week in New York City, when many of the highest-end collectors and dealers are in town.

WildThings-Reed.jpgThe Sendak collection belonged to bookseller and longtime Sendak collector Reed Orenstein. The two became acquainted when Sendak asked Orenstein to sell him an early copy of his own book, one so rare that Sendak himself did not own it. Orenstein refused, preferring to give it to Sendak as a gift. The gesture was repaid through the years with inscribed copies of books and artwork from Sendak to Orenstein. One of the highlights of that provenance is this first edition in original dust jacket of Where the Wild Things Are inscribed and signed to Orenstein with a drawing of one of the Wild Things in blue ink. Sendak writes, "This certainly looks like a first Edition -- it has all the wrong colors in the right places!" The estimate is $10,000-15,000. An even higher price will be paid for a suite of eight signed concept pencil sketches for Sendak's Really Rosie TV special.

Marcellino.jpgBut it's not an all-Sendak sale. Another lot that caught my eye is a watercolor by Fred Marcellino, a book jacket artist and children's author/illustrator who we featured in our fall 2012 issue. Slow Learner (seen above) is the dust jacket design for Thomas Pynchon's Slow Learner, published in 1984. Says the auction house, "This is the first time his work has ever appeared at auction." Surely not the last. The estimate is $6,000-9,000.

Baskin-Morris.jpgWorks by Gorey, Bemelmans, Disney, Hirschfeld, Garth Williams, and many more artists and illustrators round out the sale. This signed Leonard Baskin watercolor painting of William Morris (above), commissioned by bookseller Ed Nudelman, is another pleasant surprise. The estimate is $3,000-4,500.