Sunday Comics & "New Yorker" Covers Lead Swann's Sale of Illustration Art
Setting the auction apart is a selection of classic original comic strips, led by the original nine-panel Sunday Peanuts strip, Do you like Beethoven?, 1970, by Charles Schulz, featuring Schroeder, Lucy and Freida, inscribed to the conductor of the Kansas City Philharmonic’s 1978 Beethoven Festival, with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. Other Schulz works include a 1992 eight-panel strip featuring Snoopy and Charlie Brown ($15,000 to $25,000), and three panels of Snoopy scheming for his dinner, 1989, estimated at $8,000 to $12,000. Also available is an extremely rare early four-panel strip for Blondie, depicting Blondie and Dagwood before they were married, done in India ink and blue pencil by creator Chic Young ($800 to $1,200).
Ever a literary sale, Swann’s Illustration auction does not disappoint with a strong New Yorker section. Penguin Convention is a 1977 watercolor by Charles Addams that eschews his usual morbid humor for a charming vista of thousands of identical penguins, each with their own nametag ($15,000 to $25,000). Cover work by Abe Birnbaum and Theodore Haupt for the famed publication will also be available. Prescient cartoons by Tom Toro, published as recently as 2018, follow strong prices for the artist’s work in previous auctions at Swann, evidence that the market for contemporary cartoons is alive and kicking.
A run of important works by the great American satirist Rick Meyerowitz from the artist’s personal collection will be offered at auction for the first time. The highlight is a final watercolor sketch for his and Maira Kalman’s famous cover for The New Yorker, New Yorkistan, the acknowledged first comic relief for the city after September 11, 2001, and #14 on the American Society of Magazine Editors’ list of top covers in the last 40 years. As a late iteration of the map, most of the invented names are already in place, including “Khkhzkz” and “Khandibar,” with only a few minor edits written in ($10,000 to $15,000). Further highlights by Meyerowitz include the original watercolors for the posters for the classic films Animal House, 1978, and the international release of Blazing Saddles, 1974 ($3,000 to $4,000 and $4,000 to $6,000, respectively).
Joining the roster for the first time are works from the heyday of MAD Magazine from the estate of Howard Kaminsky. Cover illustrations starring the publication’s mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, include Norman Mingo’s iconic watercolor The Token MAD, 1973, and an alternate design for The Sound of MAD, 1980, by George Woodbridge ($4,000 to $6,000 and $1,500 to $2,500, respectively).
The auction is populated by the protagonists of classic children’s stories brought to life by their indelible illustrations, including Russell H. Tandy’s evocative cover for Carolyn Keene’s The Secret in the Old Attic, a Nancy Drew book. The entire scene, including the lettering, is painted by hand in watercolor and gouache; the estimate is $15,000 to $25,000. A watercolor study by Jessie Willcox Smith of a toddler about to pet a sleeping cat, for Angela M. Keyes’s The Five Senses, 1911, carries an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.
The selection of watercolors by Ludwig Bemelmans is led by an alternate design for an advertisement for Walker’s DeLuxe whiskey, valued between $10,000 and $15,000, as well as works for his travelogues.
An ever-popular selection of pin-ups includes the charming oil paintings With Love…, 1931, by Enoch Bolles, and Woman with her Doll, 1962, by Fritz Willis ($7,000 to $10,000 and $6,000 to $9,000, respectively). Following success in December 2017 with works by John Falter, the house will offer two preliminary oil studies by the artist for What Pay Does a Navy WAVE Get?, 1944, promoting a recruitment campaign aimed at women, with an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000.
Aubrey Beardsley is represented by the unusually large ink ornamental device Three Lilies Swaying Left, 1893, for Le Morte d’Arthur, as well as Shelter, 1892, a figurative ink drawing for Bon-Mots of Sydney Smith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan of an infant under an umbrella ($6,000 to $9,000 and $8,000 to $12,000, respectively). Works by his contemporary, Arthur Rackham, include a heart-wrenching scene of Danäe and the Infant Perseus, 1922, for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book, with an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.
The complete catalogue with bidding information is available at www.swanngalleries.com.
Additional highlights can be found here.
Image: Lot 183: Charles Schulz, Do you like Beethoven?, ink and graphite, signed and inscribed, for Peanuts, 1970. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.