February 2019 Archives

We heard today the sad news that world-renowned fashion designer (and bibliophile) Karl Lagerfeld has died. It reminded me that back in 2011, I desperately wanted to profile the German-born Lagerfeld in our magazine, having been enticed by images of his 300,000-volume library like the one below, taken by Piotr Stoklosa. So I got in touch with a journalist friend, a bilingual American who had lived in Berlin for a while, which I thought might help in communicating with Lagerfeld’s assistants or handlers. Getting to him, however, turned out to be impossible. Images of his library are widely shared online, and they turn up year after year; it’s clear people really want to know more about this incredible collection, and how and why he filled his life with books. I suppose now it will be dismantled, sold at auction or through a bookseller--perhaps even his own bookshop, Librairie 7L, in Paris--which may be when it finally gets its close-up.

U1vXb1wTYw5LAEqw1CuP_karllagerfeldlibrary2.pngIn 2015, he said, “If you go to my house, I’ll have you walk around the books.” Indeed. A few more photos of Lagerfeld’s library -- yes, with books stacked sideways!-- can be viewed at My Modern Met.

After a fairly quiet week, we’re very much back to business on the auction front. Here are a few things I’ll be watching this week:


Alexander Historical Auctions holds its Winter Auction on Monday, February 18, in a whopping 1,120 lots. Among the manuscripts expected to sell well are a June 29, 1861 letter from Stonewall Jackson ($15,000-25,000); the signature of Declaration of Independence Signer Thomas Lynch, Jr., clipped from a volume of Swift ($10,000-15,000); and an Ernest Hemingway letter to an aspiring writer ($8,000-10,000).


At Toovey’s on Tuesday, February 19, Antiquarian and Collectors’ Books, in 212 lots. Toovey’s sells Maps and Prints on Wednesday, too, in a 165-lot sale.


berge.pngPierre Bergé & Associés sells the Bibliothèque d’un Amateur on Tuesday, in 129 lots. A 1523 Ovid in French (Paris: Philippe le Noir) with more than thirty woodcut illustrations rates the top estimate, at €35,000-45,000. A seventeenth-century manuscript prayer book made for Andrée de Vivonne, Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld could sell for €30,000-40,000 (pictured).


On Wednesday, Bibliothèque Marc Litzler at Christie’s Paris. The 248 lots include Matisse’s Jazz (Paris, 1947), estimated at €200,000-300,000; illustrations from the 1498 Nuremberg edition of Dürer’s Apocalypsis (€150,000-200,000); a manuscript book of hours from around 1480 (€60,000-80,000); and a second edition Vesalius (€50,000-70,000).


PBA Galleries holds a 431-lot sale of Rare Americana, Travel & Exploration, Hawaii, World History, and Cartography on Thursday, February 21. Rating the top estimate is a full set of the first two volumes of Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger (1830-1831), at $10,000-15,000. The third issue of William Stith’s history of Virginia (Williamsburg, [1753]), with the bookplate of British politician George Grenville, could fetch $6,000-9,000. A massive 1761 map of Europe with vignettes is estimated at $5,000-8,000. Finally, two Mexican Inquisitorial broadsides about forbidden books, one from 1781 and another from 1803, each are estimated at $3,000-5,000.


Last but not least, Aguttes in Paris sells Livres Anciens & Modernes, Manuscrits & Autographes on Friday, February 22, in 314 lots. A collection of forty-eight letters from artist Francis Picabia to Suzanne Roman is expected to sell for €30,000-40,000, while a bifolium from a seventeenth-century Italian manuscript maritime atlas of the Mediterranean could fetch €20,000-25,000. A Debussy music manuscript rates the same estimate.


Image credit: Pierre Bergé & Associés

Yale University is moving forward with a plan to renovate Bass Library after commencement this spring, but the renovation has irked members of the community because part of the project involves removing 84,000 of the library’s 145,000 volumes--a full 58%--and permanently housing them in nearby Sterling Memorial Library. 

University librarian Susan Gibbons has said in various interviews that the books are being moved to make more studying space available as the student body grows. “I don’t think that, as a result of this project, students are going to have less access to the books -- they’re all still here on-campus,” she said in an interview with NPR’s Frankie Graziano. “But, what they will have access to is more places to actually sit down amongst the books and do that studying.” Gibbons also said that the way students use Bass has changed with the times, citing a decrease in students checking out books for the sciences and math programs, but usage among Humanities majors has stayed the same. According to a recent Yale press release, borrowing among undergraduates has dropped from 40% of total circulation in 2008 to just 13% in 2018. Coupled with a growing student body, university administrators feel repurposing the stacks into seating would be a better use of the space.

Gibbons acknowledged the enduring importance of books, especially in a library. Yale’s plan for the library going forward includes, as Gibbons said in the press release, “maintaining a more dynamic, up-to-date collection in Bass that will evolve with the addition of new courses and encourage students’ engagement with print books.” That engagement includes what she called a “renewed focus” on books by Yale faculty. “The collection will be smaller, but more vital and relevant.”


Opened in 1971, the Bass Library last underwent a $50 million interior renovation in 2007. 


Some Yale students aren’t having it. Humanities and philosophy major Leland Strange is leading what he’s dubbed a “browse-in,” a mass check-out of books from Bass to protest the move. Fellow students worry that a denuded Bass will resemble an airport terminal rather than a library. Other students fretted that the whole point of a library is to have access to materials, whether they’re on regular rotation or have never been checked out. 

Despite students’ efforts, Yale appears poised to move ahead with the renovation, which is expected to be completed by October 1, with a “soft roll-out” planned for late August.

Chances are you’ve heard the name Ansel Adams. What about Mary Austin? An upcoming auction lot reminded me that Adams’ first book of photography, titled Taos Pueblo, was published in a limited, Grabhorn Press edition in 1930. Adams supplied twelve photos, while Austin wrote the text. The copy for sale at Swann Auction Galleries next week, signed by both the author and the artist, is estimated to reach $30,000-45,000.

Austin Adams.jpgBut who was Austin? Swann describes her “a popular nature writer,” which is true, if understated. Mary Hunter Austin (1868-1934) traveled extensively in the Southwest and wrote about what she saw and experienced there. Her first book, published in 1903, was The Land of Little Rain, a nature classic in the same league as Thoreau’s Walden or Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra. Austin’s evocative sketches of life in Death Valley and the Mojave Desert are mystical and life-affirming. Incredibly for the time, Austin often traveled alone through hostile environments to collect her stories, prompting Outside magazine to feature her recently in “Badass Women Chronicles.”  

Austin went on to write more than thirty books and hundreds of articles. As Adams wrote of her, “Seldom have I met and known anyone of such intellectual and spiritual power and discipline.” Still, she never quite cracked into the literary canon. The Land of Little Rain was reissued in 1920 and was notably included in the “Zamorano 80” list of distinguished California books in 1945. Five years after that, Ansel Adams published a photo-illustrated edition of Land, perhaps an homage to their first collaboration. Then Austin seems to drop off the radar for several decades.

51950.jpgA quick peruse of booksellers’ offerings online show copies of the collector-worthy first edition, bound in decorative gilt cloth (pictured above, courtesy of Ken Sanders Rare Books), in the $150-500 range, as well as the 1920 second edition in dust jacket for $175. Arader Galleries has a stunning extra-illustrated first edition for $35,000.

LandOfLittleRain copy.jpgCoincidentally, an audiobook of The Land of Little Rain was released earlier this month, read by Emmy Award winner Ellen Parker. (Full disclosure: it was produced by my husband, Brett Barry.) It is the first commercially available audio edition of Austin’s most famous work. There are also paperback editions now available from Modern Library, Penguin, and Dover, plus a 2014 coffee table edition with photos by Walter Feller.

It seems we -- readers, collectors, publishers -- are finally making shelf space for Mary Austin.

Images (Top) Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries; (Middle) Courtesy of Ken Sanders Rare Books; (Bottom) Courtesy of Silver Hollow Audio.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Katherine Hoarn, special collections librarian at the Washington Library at Mount Vernon:

kh_mountvernon.pngWhat is your role at your institution? (And please introduce our readers to your unique institution and library as well)

I am the Special Collections Librarian at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon (also more briefly known as the Washington Library). I oversee a collection of rare books, manuscripts, and ephemera related to George and Martha Washington, their lives and legacies, and the Washington and Custis descendants. Although there have been professional librarians employed by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association since at least the 1930s, our standalone research facility was opened in 2013. The best thing about working at a smaller research library is all the different roles I get to play - from reference and outreach to collection development, donor relations, and processing and describing collections.


How did you get started in special collections?

I began working in special collections as a graduate assistant at Florida State University. I started library school wanting to be an academic subject librarian, but after my first tour of FSU’s Special Collections & Archives, I was hooked. After my assistantship, I was offered a job as the Visiting Rare Books & Instruction Librarian.


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

The Washington Library has 105 volumes from Washington’s original library. It is always exciting to bring one of those volumes out for a researcher or tour group. I don’t know if I could pick a favorite, but Washington’s copy of Acts passed at a Congress of the United States of America is really special. It was printed in New York by Francis Childs and John Swaine in 1789 and specially bound for Washington. Not only does the book contain Washington’s penciled annotations of the Constitution, it is in immaculate condition and is a fine specimen of early American bookmaking.


What do you personally collect?

Limited shelf space has kept my personal collection (mostly) under control, but any time I can pick up a lovely old illustrated children’s classic or a well-bound edition of Russian literature, I will.


What do you like to do outside of work?

I try to take advantage of all the museums and cultural events that the greater DC area has to offer. I love walking around Old Town Alexandria or taking a drive into the country. When the suburbs end and you can see the Appalachian Mountains in the distance, you know you’ve driven far enough.


What excites you about special collections librarianship?

It always comes back to connecting people to materials. Whether it’s a brief tour of the library or an in-depth research consultation, seeing people get excited about the materials is incredibly rewarding.


Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

The barriers to accessing collections are slowly being dismantled, and this is a very good thing. I predict the future will be a lot less stodgy.


Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you’d like to draw our attention to?

We have a small collection of manuscript and newspaper fragments that were part of a rat’s nest. The items date back to the early 1800’s when Washington’s nephew Bushrod owned Mount Vernon. The nest was found near Washington’s bedchamber in the mid-twentieth century during renovations.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

A new round of materials from our collections are getting ready to be installed at Mount Vernon’s Museum Center. Our ongoing exhibit is Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In particular, there are some recently-acquired manuscripts related to the enslaved population in the nineteenth-century that will be on display for the first time. We are fortunate at the Washington Library to get to work with Mount Vernon’s top-notch team of curators and museum professionals. Learning more about the procedures and standards of the museum world has really helped me grow as a librarian.

Photo credit: Mount Vernon Ladies Association

Last week, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore put on display a little-known but extraordinary nineteenth-century prayer book woven entirely from silk on a Jacquard loom. In Woven Words: Decoding the Silk Book, visitors can get a close look at this unique objet d’art.

RS399725_PS1_92.123.26v-27r_Op_DD_AST-014777-ppt.jpg“It survives today as the only successful example of an entirely woven book, every line of text and saintly figure intricately created out of silk,” said Lynley Anne Herbert, Robert and Nancy Hall Associate Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

RS399694_PS1_83.736_Back_DD_AST-014779-ppt.jpgIt was Joseph Marie Jacquard of Lyon, France, who patented a weaving technique that revolutionized the textile industry with his mechanized loom. Jacquard’s innovation presaged the modern computer in its use of paper punch cards that could be programmed to allow complex patterns, like those seen in the Silk Book.

“What’s remarkable about the Silk Book is that, though it’s an object that is more than a century old, it has real connections to our modern-day life,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “We hope that it will continue to inspire our visitors to think about other ways in which art and science converge in their lives.”

The Silk Book in on view through April 28.

Images courtesy of the Walters Art Museum

The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, announced last week a batch of acquisitions at its Library Collectors’ Council meeting. Among the treasures is the Shrewsbury Miniature Prayer Book, dating from 1590, with its black silk velvet cover and gold champlevé decorative embellishment. (Champlevé is a type of enamelwork in which hollows in a metal surface are filled with colored enameled glass.) It is “as much an art object as a manuscript,” according to a Huntington statement.

shrewsbury-prayer-book-cover.jpg“The gleaming heraldic device on the front and back covers tells us that this riveting little volume was produced for Gilbert and Mary Talbot, the 7th Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury,” said Vanessa Wilkie, William A. Moffett Curator of Medieval Manuscripts and British History at the Huntington. “The couple was a fixture in the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts, and their careers and scandalous reputations are well documented.”

shrewsbury-prayer-book.jpgWhat this fine binding contains is also intriguing: a twenty-six-page crypto-Catholic manuscript of prayers, created at a time when England’s accepted religious doctrine was Protestantism. Those who continued to worship as Catholics did so at their own peril.

“This book, although less than four inches in length, offers vital opportunities for studying the history of the book as an object, the crypto-Catholic lives of one of the most well-documented Elizabethan families, and the relationship between printed and manuscript prayer books during the Reformation,” said Wilkie.

Images: Crypto-Catholic Shrewsbury miniature prayer book (c. 1590) manuscript in ink on parchment. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Daniel Crouch Rare Books _SiliconValley.jpeg


Daniel Crouch Rare Books is at the CA book fair this weekend and has brought a most fitting map to his booth: a playful look at the cradle of the technology industry, circa 1983. Titled simply, “Silicon Valley,” the 30” by 39” color printed map offers a chipper bird’s-eye view of the computer industry as it was thirty-six years ago.


Among the hundreds of firms included on the map are companies like IBM, Toshiba, Apple and Hewlett-Packard vying for space with now-defunct tech players like Four Phase Systems and Wang. Illustrated by children’s book author Maryanne Regal Hoburg (B.B. Bear, Basic Brown Bear), the map demonstrates the robust, almost childlike enthusiasm of the tech ecosystem participants of the early 1980s. Peppered among the computer companies are sentiments like, “Everybody is in the fast lane,” and “Silicon Valley is a highly competitive place.” Near Apple’s headquarters, an archer aiming an arrow at an unwitting participant says, “I’ll shoot the apple right off your head!”


The map isn’t all just tech and computer companies; universities like Stanford and Santa Clara receive their due, and the local Chuck E. Cheese--founded by fellow Silicon Valley scion and Atari creator Nolan Bushnell--is promoted as the best spot for a kid’s birthday.


Produced by City Graphics of America, a small graphic design company known for fun, comic-style maps, this copy is being offered for $45,000. That’s a lot of bytes.


Image courtesy of Daniel Crouch Rare Books

Bronte Parsonage (with Charlotte's Pine and Emily's Path to the Moors)_2017 copy.jpgAlthough the Rare Book Week West crowds have shifted north by now, opening this weekend at the Huntington Library in San Marino is an exhibition of seven recent paintings by contemporary British artist Celia Paul, one of which is bound to captivate the Brontëans among us. The Brontë Parsonage (with Charlotte’s Pine and Emily’s Path to the Moors) has its roots in Paul’s recollection of her childhood home near Brontë’s Parsonage. Hilton Als, prize-winning art critic and curator of this exhibition, speculates “that Paul might have seen parallels between the Brontë family and her own, many members of whom have been involved in the Church of England,” according to a statement released by the Huntington.

The exhibition, which remains on view through July 8, also showcases Paul’s light-filled seascapes and contemplative portraits of family members. Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art at the Huntington, said, “With Turner’s masterful brushwork and Constable’s sensitive treatment of light and climate as a backdrop here, our visitors can assess Celia Paul’s work within the context of British painting, while also appreciating the innovations and sensitive introspection of this 21st-century female painter.”

If you happen to be the Bay Area this weekend instead, check out our guide to exhibitions & events happening now through Monday.

Image: Celia Paul, The Brontë Parsonage (with Charlotte’s Pine and Emily’s Path to the Moors), 2017. Oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 29 1/4 in. © Celia Paul. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice.

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues this week, during our California fairs coverage, with a California book collector, Matthew Wills, who recently won the inaugural California Young Book Collectors Prize.



Where are you from / where do you live?

I currently live in La Jolla, California, but I originally herald from the south of England. I moved to the United States in 2014 to pursue my doctoral studies.

What do you study at University?

I studied history as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Oxford, before moving to Beijing to study Chinese at Peking University. I am now in my 5th year of a History PhD at the University of California, San Diego. I am mentored by Professors Paul Pickowicz and Karl Gerth.

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

I have collected Chinese propaganda for years, but my real interest is in books/periodicals published in the 1970s during the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign. In this campaign, the Chinese Communist Party orchestrated mass criticism of Confucius and Confucianism, as well calling on people to denounce Mao’s former heir-apparent (Lin Biao) as a present-day lackey of Confucius. This campaign was the last hurrah of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and publishers/printers produced some amazing print culture to substantiate the state’s narratives and show people why Confucianism and Lin Biao were enemies of the people. I study the print culture of this campaign for my PhD, and over the last six years I have amassed a collection of books and ephemera.

How many books are in your collection?

I just tried to count the collection and it falls somewhere between 600 and 700 items. My items range from books with a print-run in the hundreds of millions all the way down to pamphlets printed by the propaganda divisions of counties and villages. My collection also includes comic books, drawings, small posters, and periodicals. While most of the items are in Mandarin Chinese, I also own some books printed in English, Braille, and the languages of China’s ethnic minorities.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I can’t remember which book I bought first because that was a long time ago! When building the collection I acquired a lot of pamphlets first, before moving on to more specialized books such as the comic books or the Braille items.

How about the most recent book?

My last purchase on my most recent research trip to China was a selection of articles from the theoretical journal Study and Criticism (学习与批判) published inn Tibetan in 1975. Study and Criticism was a flagship journal of the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign, and Qinghai People’s Publishing House produced this Tibetan translation to cater to China’s Tibetan population. 

And your favorite book in your collection?

I have so many favorites! One book I really like is a small paperback compilation of important newspaper articles related to the campaign. I like this copy because it still has an original paper insert detailing all the typographical errors in the text. It looks like the printers printed it a little too hastily and only discovered the 40 (!) errors in the volume after they had finished the print-run.

Best bargain you’ve found?

I have acquired books for free! In my department we have a book exchange shelf and I once found an English-language version of an important book from the campaign just sitting there. My thanks go to whichever UCSD professor decided they no longer needed that.

How about The One that Got Away?

If I had unlimited money I would buy everything. I once saw a plastic-bound anthology of criticisms of Confucius from the writings of Lu Xun, a major 20th-century Chinese intellectual. Alas, the seller wanted a little too much for it and I had already spent too much money that morning...

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

Some of the books published in the campaign were replicated in 36-point type, silk-bound editions for Chairman Mao to read in his ailing years. I would love to get my hands on some of them, but I am yet to come across any copies. They are not the kind of thing that is readily available.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?
Blackwell’s in Oxford. I have not bought any Chinese propaganda from there, but I used to work in the shop’s literature and languages department before I started my undergraduate degree at Oxford. Blackwell’s is a fantastic bookstore to browse around on your lunchbreak and you meet some fantastic customers. I worked with some amazing people during my six months there and learnt a lot from talking with Derek Walker and others in the Rare Books department.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

If I didn’t collect books, I would probably focus on collecting printed paper napkins and coffee-cup sleeves from cafes and other establishments. But, luckily for me, I collect those already as well. :)

[Image provided by Matthew Wills]

The Zamorano Club is Southern California’s bibliophilic club -- it is to SoCal what the Grolier is to New York, and the Caxton is to Chicago. To mark its 90th anniversary last year, a volume of essays exploring the historic contributions of women booksellers, printers, and collectors in California was published, titled Zamorano Celebrates 90.


Women were only offered membership in the Zamorano Club beginning in 1990; still there were many contributions to showcase, namely: Gary Kurutz of the California State Library Foundation on bookseller Alice Millard; Carrie Marsh, director of special collections at the Claremont Colleges Library, on Los Angeles bibliophile Olive Percival; Author Romy Wyllie on collector Estelle Doheny; ABAA bookseller Jennifer Johnson on printer Lillian Marks of the Plantin Press; ABAA bookseller Brad Johnson on bookseller Peggy Christian; Author Michelle Zack on librarian and collector Mayme Clayton; and author Elizabeth Pomeroy on Agnes Dawson and the women of Dawson’s Book Shop.

Zamorano 90.jpgA copy of Zamorano Celebrates 90 will be offered for sale at PBA Galleries’ auction this week in Oakland, estimated at $200-300. Quarter-bound in purple cloth and brown leather with gilt-stamped titles and decorative endpapers, this is copy 75 of 75 subscriber copies signed by all the contributors. It was donated by Johnson Rare Books & Archives, and proceeds will benefit the ABAA Benevolent Fund.  

Piggybacking on all that is a panel discussion organized by the ABAA Women’s Initiative during the California Antiquarian Book Fair this Sunday from 9:30-11:00 a.m. The panel brings together five contributors to discuss the Zamorano project. The panel will be moderated by ABAA member Kait Manning and features Jean Gillingwators, editor and project coordinator of Zamorano Celebrates 90; Judy Sahak, librarian emerita at Scripps College and first woman president of the Zamorano Club; Gary Kurutz; and booksellers Jen and Brad Johnson. The panel is free and open to the public.

Image courtesy of PBA Galleries

A trio of sales I’ll be watching this week:


At Bonhams London on Wednesday, February 6, a Travel and Exploration sale, in 205 lots. Expected to lead the way is a sledge from the 1907-1909 British Antarctic Expedition (known as the “Nimrod Expedition”), estimated at £60,000-100,000. A first edition of David Roberts’ The Holy Land (1842-49), once owned and annotated by noted Blake collector Alice Grace Elizabeth Carthew, could fetch £25,000-35,000. Among the other top-estimated books is a set of the illustrations from Samuel Daniell’s Picturesque Illustration of the Scenery, Animals, and Native Inhabitants, of the Island of Ceylon (1808), at £10,000-15,000 (pictured below).


daniell.png Forum Auctions holds an online sale of Modern Literature & Illustrated Books on Thursday, February 7, in 268 lots. Prices are expected to mostly be in the three-figure range here, though a pair of Russian avant-garde titles from the 1910s and a copy of the final Harry Potter book, signed by J. K. Rowling, are all estimated at £1,000-1,500. There are many other lots of Russian literature and a few more Rowling-signed books, as well as a number of intriguing lots of small press material.


Finally, PBA Galleries will hold a sale in Oakland prior to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair: The Book Fair Century: One Hundred Fine Books - Plus Books Sold to Benefit the ABAA Benevolent Fund. Among the 75 lots sold for the ABAA Benevolent Fund are several Blake editions by Trianon Press (Lots 6-7); a first printing of Hawthorne’s Marble Faun ($200-300); and a portfolio of Whittington Press posters ($1,000-1,500). Other expected highlights include a copy of the first edition in English of Aristotle’s Politics (1598), estimated at $20,000-30,000; a first edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan ($15,000-25,000); an inscribed copy of Dashiell Hammett’s first book, Red Harvest ($15,000-20,000); and a small collection of material relating to Nabokov’s butterfly research ($10,000-15,000). Theodore Roosevelt’s copy of Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is estimated at $4,000-6,000. A Thomas J. Wise forgery, sold with a copy of Wise’s Swinburne bibliography, could sell for $1,000-1,500. 


Image courtesy of Bonhams

Ralph Sipper Books_picasso pic.jpg “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” (Pablo Picasso, Time magazine, October 4, 1976)

The Picasso being offered for sale at Ralph Sipper’s booth (#304) during the 52nd California International Antiquarian Book Fair next week may be one of the more reasonably priced pieces to hit the market in recent years. It’s an original six-color crayon drawing by Pablo Picasso being offered for $40,000. But the provenance is priceless.

Pablo and Pablo.JPGThe image of a grinning lion, rendered in Picasso’s inimitable style, graces the back of an oversize postcard measuring 4.75” by 6.5.” Sent from Cannes, France, Picasso mailed the card to Connecticut, where Pablo Frasconi, the six-year-old son of woodcut artist and book illustrator Antonio Frasconi, was the intended recipient. 

Signed simply, “Para mi Amigo, Pablito 5/11/58, Picasso,” the card was a thank you note for a gift of the boy’s own sketchings sent to the famous artist earlier that year.

“Unfortunately, the detail of what we sent Picasso was not recorded as far as I know,” said Frasconi. “I know it included Antonio’s artwork too, and a letter to Pablo.”

In adulthood, Frasconi followed in his father’s creative footsteps, taking up the video camera rather than the engraver’s burin. “As a young man, I remember seeing the film of Picasso painting on glass, and reading the David Douglas Duncan book Picasso’s Picassos,” explained Frasconi. “All of this resonated when I watched the films of [non-narrative filmmaker] Stan Brakhage at MOMA in 1971. I immediately decided to study film with him. Brakhage had that same innocent and introspective eye that I detected and admired in Picasso, and, at times, emulate in my own work.”

Indeed, as an 18-time grant recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Film Institute, many of Frasconi’s films have focused on the lives of artists, starting with his own father. Other notable films include “The Light at Walden,” and “The Survival of a Small City.” He is currently a professor at the University of Southern California.


pablo verso.JPG  

Images, from top: Pablo Picasso postcard, used with permission from Ralph Sipper Books. Photograph, front and verso: “Pablo and his greatest possession,” taken December 1959 by Leona Pierce. Used with permission from Pablo Frasconi. 

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