Auction Highlights: Illustration Art, Featuring Highlights from the Collection of Jules Feiffer — June 20, 2024

Winsor Mccay, The Last Day of Manhattan, published in the New York Herald February 26, 1905, pen and ink over pencil on paper, 1905. Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.

Our Spring 2024 Illustration Art sale will showcase an exceptional selection of original artworks spanning various media, including magazines, books, cartoons, postcards, posters, costume and scenic design, and animation. Highlights of the sale include a cartoon by Winsor McCay published in The New York Herald, a pristine scenic design by Jo Mielziner for the Broadway play Wish You Were Here, numerous examples of iconic record album cover art, and magazine illustrations by some of the most sought-after illustrators of their era.

Alexander Calder, Untitled (Two artists), Untitled (Two artists), published in The New Masses Vol. 1, No. 3, July 1926, ink on bristol board, 1926. Estimate $5,000 to $8,000.

Cartoons and comic art dominate the sale, featuring works from influential artists like Julian Allen, Clare Bretécher, and Steve Brodner, alongside legends such as Winsor McCay, Ward Kimball, and Chuck Jones. Among the highlights is a cartoon by Alexander Calder which integrates a sense of animation and a linear drawing style, elements typical of his sculptures. This particular cartoon showcases Calder’s characteristic humor and insightful commentary on the challenges faced by artists. It depicts a conversation between two artists: “My time is evenly divided. I spend half my time looking for work, and the other half trying to collect for it.” “When do you have time to paint?” “In my spare time.” 

Will Eisner, The manly art of self defense, published in The Spirit, November 11, 1940, ink and correction fluid of pencil on Bristol board, 1940. Estimate $40,000 to $50,000.

The sale will feature a special allotment of cartoon and comic art collected by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and author, Jules Feiffer. Of particular interest is an original section cover art for The Spirit. This rare piece of comics and cartooning history was acquired by Feiffer while working for Will Eisner. A tremendous fan of Eisner’s work, Feiffer recalled, “I kept pestering him” for a piece of original art, but Eisner was reluctant to part with it. Eventually, Eisner gave in and signed it, “To Jules Feiffer, reluctantly, Will Eisner.” 

Jo Mielziner, Fire backdrop, Gouache, watercolor, ink, and wash, Broadway production of Wish You Were Here, 1952. Estimate $2,500 to $3,500.

The theatre and performing arts are represented by caricatures, drawings, costume design, set design, and record album cover art by artists such as Sam Norkin, Max Beerbohm, Walter Plunkett, Robert Weaver, George Wachsteter, Freddy Wittop, and more. A standout piece at auction is this “Fire backdrop” design by Jo Mielziner, one of the most influential scenic designers in American theater history. Created for the 1952 Broadway production of Wish You Were Here, the design includes an inscription to producer Leland Hayward and director Joshua Logan, as well as Mielziner’s design notes in the margins. 

Colin Elgie, Year of the Cat, airbrushed gouache on illustration board, Year of the Cat (Al Stewart o RCA Records/UK, 1976), 1977. Estimate $2,500 to $3,500.

Up for auction is the iconic record album cover illustration for Year of the Cat (Al Stewart, RCA Records/UK, 1976) by Colin Elgie. Created in 1976, Elgie’s artwork is celebrated for its imaginative depiction of a woman surrounded by cat-themed items, perfectly capturing the essence of what many consider Al Stewart’s masterpiece album. The concept was so enduringly popular that it was revisited for the cover of Stewart’s 2004 Greatest Hits album, where most of the cat items were replaced with references to his other songs. 

Mark Tansey, Waiting in Line to Look, pen and ink, The Photographic Art Market, Auction Price Results for 1980-81 (New York: Falk-Leeds International, Inc., 1981), 1980. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.

Book illustration is represented in this sale by work from renowned artists such as Jamie Wyeth, Mead Schaeffer, Kay Nielsen, and Tom Feelings. This highlight by Mark Tansey is a rare example of his work as illustrator. In “Waiting in Line to Look,” Tansey departs from his large-format oil paintings to create a scaled-down book illustration in pen and ink. Tansey incorporates themes from his fine art painting, including historical imagery, playing with perspective and scale, and referencing the history of narrative art.  

Domenico Gnoli, Warsaw Palace of Culture and Science, Indian ink, published in Holiday magazine, circa 1960. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.

In addition to magazine illustrations by a distinguished roster of artists such as Pruett Carter, Miguel Covarrubias, William Koerner, Sue Coe, and Haddon Sundblom, the sale prominently features three works by Italian artist Domenico Gnoli. Likely published in Holiday magazine, these illustrations of landmarks in Warsaw, Poland, showcase Gnoli’s distinctive hyper-detailed style. His work captivates and provokes thought, urging viewers to delve deeper into the scene. Tragically, Gnoli’s life was cut short when he died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 36. Despite his brief career, he achieved significant recognition in the art world. 

George Fort Gibbs, Bell telephone gives instant alarms, oil on board, Bell Telephone Company postcard, circa 1998. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.

The sale features advertising art that encapsulates the commercial culture of the late 19th and 20th centuries, including this notable illustration by George Gibbs. Reproduced as a postcard and distributed to over 300 million households, the postcard launched a major campaign by Bell Telephone Company to introduce the candlestick telephone, emphasizing its capability to provide instant alarms. This postcard is renowned among telephony enthusiasts and has become a widely collected item across America. 

Keep in Touch