Al Hirschfeld’s Marx Brothers Tops Auction at $26k
Our auction of Illustration Art on December 6 saw a bustling auction room as well as live bidding from the newly launched Swann Galleries app. Original works from children’s literature and Peanuts comic strips from Charles M. Schulz were among highlights.
Specialist Christine von der Linn noted:
“We had a strong turnout and set records for six illustrators. The breadth and quality of the material enabled us to further the appreciation and enjoyment of this specific category of art.”
Illustrations from children’s literature saw outstanding results, boasting five records: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar with $20,000; H.A. Rey’s color pencil work for Cecily G and the 9 Monkeys, 1939–the first book to introduce Curious George–earned $17,500.
Lot 40: H.A. Rey, Do You Want To Get Across?, illustration from Cecily G and the 9 Monkeys featuring the first appearance of Curious George, colored pencil, charcoal & watercolor, 1939. Sold for $17,500.
A watercolor and ink alternate version of the title page for Angelina Ballerina by Helen Craig saw $5,460, and Leonard Weisgard’s double-page illustration for The Golden Christmas Tree brought $5,000.
Two archives from Helen Stone found buyers: a rich collection of production material from Tell Me, Mr. Owl, 1957, which included sketches, studies and thoughtfully composed finished drawings garnered $3,500, a record for the artist; and the 50-page mockup of Watch Honeybees with Me, 1964, with numerous illustration, was collected by an institution for $688.
Lot 51: Helen Stone, Tell Me, Mr. Owl, archive of working and published drawings, 1957. Sold for $3,500.
Also present was Jerry Pinkney’s special holiday watercolor for a 2009 cover of School Library Journal, which realized $7,000.
Lot 38: Jerry Pinkney, The Lion & The Mouse, illustration for the December 2009 cover of School Library Journal, watercolor, graphite & wash. Sold for $7,000.
The runaway top lot of the sale was a pen and ink drawing of the Marx Brothers by famed cartoonist Al Hirschfeld. The illustration for the cover of Why a Duck?, 1971, which features Chico, Harpo and Groucho in classic Hirschfeld style, barreled through its high estimate of $7,500 selling for $26,000 after a bidding war.
Lot 233: Al Hirschfeld, The Marx Brothers, illustration for the cover of Why a Duck,?, 1971. Sold for $26,000.
Charles M. Schulz & Cartoons
Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang took the spotlight with five original Peanuts comic strips by Charles M. Schulz earning top spots in the sale. The Years are Going by Fast, 1979, which put Schroeder, his piano and Lucy’s fussbudget personality on display; along with Everyone Needs to Have Hope, 1971, with Snoopy atop his doghouse, were sold to collectors.
Additional cartoons included an original 11-panel Doonesbury strip, Is Rufus Ready for his Lesson? by Garry Trudeau. The comic was dedicated and inscribed to the influential psychologist, educator and civil rights activist Kenneth B. Clark ($5,750).
Lot 256: Gary Trudeau, Is Rufus Ready for his Lesson, original 11-panel Doonesbury comic strip specially created for Kenneth B. Clark, circa early 1970s. Sold for $5,750.
The New Yorker
Illustrations from The New Yorker performed well, with a cartoon by Charles Addams of a couple passing a giant birdhouse which sold for $16,250, and a 1926 New Yorker cover by James Daugherty–the earliest cover for the publication offered at Swann to date–realized $3,750.
Lot 264: James Daugherty, Skaters on the Ice, cover illustration for The New Yorker, January 1926. Sold for $3,750.
Other notable lots included: a previously unknown work by Rockwell Kent, To All Fascists for the League of the American Writers ($6,500); and Mary Mayo’s illustration for a General Mills Wheaties advertisement ($3,000, a record for the artist).
Lot 111: Rockwell Kent, To All Fascists, broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937 or 1938. Sold for $6,500.