A Cartoonist of Incongruous Charm
With a proclivity to the grim, grisly and gruesome, Charles Addams (1912-1988) walked through life illuminating its incongruous funny bones and sore spots. Addams contributed to The New Yorker for more than fifty years, and his work can be found in the permanent collections of The New York Public Library and The Library of Congress. Although his life’s work is estimated to consist of several thousand original pieces, his most well-known characters, those of The Addams Family, only appear in approximately fifty illustrations.
Left: "This is you room. If you should need anything, just scream," published in The New Yorker, March 13, 1943.
Sold September 29, 2016 for $20,000.
Right: Scuba Galleon, water color and gouache, cover for The New Yorker, September 21, 1957.
Estimate $8,000 to $12,000. At auction March 21, 2017.
The persistence of The Addams Family is largely due to the vast generations of collectors who saw the family as a refreshing jab at the traditional American family. The cast of kooky characters were born within the pages of The New Yorker in 1938, and brought to life time and time again in the form of television shows, books, a Broadway musical, and feature films. There is an unyielding desire for collectors to adopt an Addams into their own family.
Addams Family Barge, image for Mobil Oil, watercolor, pen, ink & correction fluid, 1984.
Estimate $6,000 to $9,000. At auction March 21, 2017.
Left: Noisy Neighbor, ink and wash with white heightening, full-page cartoon for The New Yorker, circa 1950.
Estimate $12,000 to $15,000. Sold September 29, 2016 for $15,000.
Right: Show magazine cover illustration, mixed media, 1960s. Sold January 28, 2016 for $17,500.
Addams's life mirrored his art: he married his third wife, Marilyn, in a pet cemetery on Long Island. The bride wore a long black dress. In 1988, he died at age 76 after a heart attack in his parked car, just outside of his apartment building in midtown Manhattan. “He’s always been a car buff, so it was a nice way to go,” Marilyn told the The New York Times–an obituary quote he undoubtedly could have used as cartoon fodder, had he been able.
Left: E=MC², watercolor and ink, published in The New Yorker, 1960. Sold January 28, 2016 for $11,700.
Left: River Styx, mixed media, published in The New Yorker, 1953. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.
Sold September 29, 2016 for $7,250.
Right: "Nonsense, dear. Four Hundred and thirty-eight isn't old!", watercolor and ink, published in The New Yorker,
1957. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000. Sold September 29, 2016 for $5,000.
For more information on Charles Addams works at Swann, contact a specialist in our Illustration Art department.
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