2018: Year in Review

A year of records, debuts and rediscovered works.

As we reflect on 2018, we look back at an excellent year of auctions. In April we held our highest-grossing African-American Fine Art auction ever, a milestone for the category, and our September auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana was the highest-earning Americana sale in the last six years. To follow that up, we had our best Contemporary Art sale to date in November. Swann offered three major special collections this year: inventory from the renowned poster dealer Gail Chisholm, Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III, and a trove of artifacts from the Harold Holzer Collection of Lincolniana.

We also recently launched the Swann Galleries App, where collectors can browse, bid and watch the auction live without any extra fees.

Thanks to all our consignors, bidders and visitors over the last year. Here’s a look at some of our favorite highlights, and a few records:


Africa-American Fine Art


A charcoal drawing by Charles White of young black man with his arms spread open wide smiling.

Charles White, O Freedom, charcoal with crayon & wash, 1956. Sold April 5 for $509,000, a record for the artist.
O Freedom is currently on display in Charles White: A Retrospective.


A colorful painting of a man with his head in his hands sitting in a large pile of trash with a female figure retreating by Robert Colescott.

Robert Colescott, Down in the Dumps: So Long Sweetheart, acrylic on canvas, 1983. Sold October 4 for $329,000, at the time of sale a record for the artist. 


A painting by Eldzier Cortor of a young black woman peering through a fishing net being used as a curtain in a window.

Eldzier Cortor, Sea of Time, oil on canvas, 1945. Sold October 4 for $245,000, a record for the artist.





A handwritten letter from Kurt Vonnegut to his brother with a satirical doodle of an eagle on the letter head and signed PFC. Kurt Vonnegut, Infantry in bubble letters.

Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters signed, to his family, including 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Sold November 8 for $12,500.


A signed letter from Thomas Jefferson sending troops to Major-General Nathanael Greene during the American Revolutionary War.

Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Green, Richmond, February 1781. Sold March 22 for $35,000.





19th & 20th Century Literature


Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan shown with the front cover and inscription and signature.

Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan. A Play About a Good Woman, first edition, presentation copy, signed and inscribed, London, 1893. Sold on November 12 for $27,500.


Emily Dickinson's first three books of poetry showing the covers of each one white and gray, one gray, and one green and white.

Emily Dickinson, Poems, Poems Second Series, and Poems Third Series, first editions, Boston, 1890. Sold May 15 for $13,750.




Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books


Sir Philip Sidney's book The Defense of Poesie shown with the outer over and title page.

Sir Philip Sidney, The Defense of Poesie, unauthorized first edition, London, 1595. Sold March 8 for $149,000, a record for the work.


A double page spread from Jean de Mandeville's Reysen und Wanderschafften durch das Gelobte Land with illustrations of a god-like figure aiming swords at a man on a horse, and a knight slaying a dragon to rescue a princess.

Jean de Mandeville, Reysen und Wanderschafften durch das Gelobte Land, Strassburg, 1488. Sold October 16 for $106,250.


Title page of José González Cabrera Bueno's book the first navigation manual printed in the Philippines. Written in Spanish.

José González Cabrera Bueno, Navigación Especulativa, y Práctica, first edition, Manila,1734. Sold October 16 for $55,000.


Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics


Gustav Klimt's The Kiss from his Das Werk von Gustav Klimt. A man kiss a woman on the cheek.

Gustav Klimt, Das Werk von Gustav Klimt, with 49 plates, Vienna & Leipzig, 1918.
Sold April 26 for $106,250.



Contemporary Art


Plate 8 spread from Louise Bourgeois artist book "He Disappeared Into Complete Silence" with the left side featuring Bourgeois' text and the right side featuring her surrealist illustration with floating ladders.

Louise Bourgeois, He Disappeared Into Complete Silence, portfolio with complete text and 9 engravings, 1947. Sold November 15 for $413,000.


Collage artwork by Alfonso Ossorio made with a number of small pebbles, beads and mosaics

Alfonso Ossorio, Untitled (Sidrach, Misach and Abednego), mixed-media on panel, 1962. Sold November 15 for $125,000.



Illustration Art


An illustration from H.A. Rey's book Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys which features the 9 monkeys using Cecily the giraffe as a bridge to get from one side of the water to the other.

H.A. Rey, Do you want to get across?, illustration from Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys featuring the first appearance of Curious George, color pencil, charcoal & watercolor with wash, 1939. Sold December 6 for $17,500, a record for the artist.


The titular character from Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, hand-painted collage. Sold December 6 for $20,000, a record for the artist.



Maps & Atlases


A Currier & Ives lithograph depicting the changing landscape of the mid-nineteenth century American frontier upon the completion of the Transcontinental Railroads.

Currier & Ives, Across the Continent, New York, 1868, formerly in the collection of Thomas Winthrop Streeter. Sold December 13 for $62,500, a record for the image.


A 1664 map of Canada

Samuel De Champlain, and Pierre Du Val, Le Canada Faict par le Sr de Champlain ou sont La Nouvelle France, Paris, 1664. Sold December 13 for $22,500, a record for the map.


John James Audubon's aquatint and engraved plate of a fish hawk mid plucking a fish from the water.

John James Audubon, Fish Hawk, aquatint & engraved plate from Birds of America, London, 1830. Sold June 7 for $68,750.




Photographs & Photobooks


A black and white photograph by Constantine Brancusi of four of his most iconic sculptures in his studio.

Constantin Bråncusi, Vu d’atelier [The artist’s studio], silver print, circa 1928. Sold October 18 for $125,000.

A compilation of Malich Sidibé's 25 photographs of the people of Bamako, Mali all in colorful frames.

Malick Sidibé, suite of 25 photographs of the people of Bamako, Mali, all in custom frames, silver prints, 1964-2001. Sold October 18 for $55,000, a record for the artist.


A hand-colored photograph of red river raft which features the brush and swamp of Louisiana with fallen trees surrounding a log cabin with a tarp over the roof that reads NITROGLYCERIN! DANGER! KEEP AWAY! with a man standing in front.

Robert B. Talfor, Photographic Views of Red River Raft, album with 113 hand-colored photographs, 1873.
Sold February 15 for $93,750. This is one of three known copies of the book.


Black and white photograph of a man tightening a bold by Lewis Hine.

Lewis W. Hine, Powerhouse Mechanic, silver print,
circa 1921. Sold February 15 for $81,250.



Printed & Manuscript African Americana


Photograph of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, signed cabinet card, by George Kendall Warren, Boston, circa 1879. Sold March 29 for $30,000, an auction record for a signed photograph of Douglass.


Printed & Manuscript Americana


Diary page from Francis W. de Winton.

Francis W. de Winton, Notes on pow-wows with Indians during an official tour of western Canada, 1881. Sold September 27 for $65,000.


Double page spread of The American Crisis by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, Parts I & II, first separate edition, Philadelphia, 1777. Sold April 12 for $50,000.



Prints & Drawings


Etching by Pablo Picasso of a young couple sitting down to eat.

Pablo Picasso, Le Repas Frugal, etching and drypoint, 1904. Sold November 1 for $125,000.


Etching of an old man looking down by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Bust of an Old Bearded Man, Looking Down, Three Quarters Right, etching, 1631. Sold November 1 for $37,500, a record for the etching.


A brown, beige and black linoleum cut by Picasso of an abstract woman with her hands above her head.

Pablo Picasso, Grand nu Dansant, color linoleum cut, 1962. Sold September 20 for $70,000, a record for the print.



Vintage Posters


A poster of a passenger train chugging along through the night.

Philip Zec, By Night Train to Scotland / LMS, 1932. Sold October 25 for $17,500.


Black and white poster for the London Tube by Man Ray

Man Ray, [London Transport] – Keeps London Going, 1938. Sold May 3 for $149,000, a record for the work.


Special Collections

Highlights from the Gail Chisholm Collection


A series of three posters by Georges Dorival of a Mountain scene in blue, purple and dark blue.

Georges Dorival, Vers le Mont – Blanc, group of three posters, 1928. From the Collection of Gail Chisholm. Sold March 1 for $13,750.



Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III


Letter from Rutherford B. Hayes

The 1876 presidential election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden was overshadowed in South Caroline by the gubernatorial contest on the same ticket. The election resulted in riots, lynch-mobs and a contested victory for the governorship which is covered in the archive of 153 items which sold June 21 for $23,400.


The Harold Holzer Collection of Lincolniana


Framed oval portrait of a hatless Abraham Lincoln by John C. Wolfe

John C. Wolfe, Portrait of the beardless Lincoln as he appeared in June 1860, oil on board in a period wooden frame, circa 1860s. Sold September 27 for $40,000.


Blue tinted print of Abraham Lincoln

Franklin H. Brown, State Sovereignty, National Union: Abraham Lincoln from a Photograph by Hesler, engraving, circa 1860. Sold September 27 for $21,250.


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