Death by Holga: 11.22.63

Smith, Elvgren and Wyeth Top Heritage Auctions’ Illustration Art Event

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Swift's Premium Soap Products calendar illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1916

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Swift’s Premium Soap Products calendar illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1916

The stalwarts of Illustration art, across all aspects of the genre, showed their mettle once again on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion (Ukrainian Institute of America) in Heritage Auction’s $3.3+ million Illustration Art Signature® Auction, Heritage’s most successful Illustration event of 2012.

“The auction room was packed, the phones were buzzing and the online bids were fast and furious,” said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President at Heritage Auctions. “The demand for the best examples of Golden Age, Classic, Pin-up and Pulp art continues to grow.”

The auction’s top lot came from the legendary hand of Brandywine master Jessie Willcox Smith as her crayon and watercolor Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Swift’s Premium Soap Products calendar illustration, 1916, drew a $134,500 final price realized (all prices include Buyer’s Premium).

“This painting is one of the finest examples of Willcox Smith’s art Heritage has ever offered,” said Todd Hignite, Vice President of Heritage. “It was been off the market and residing in the same family collection since at least 1941 and the solid price shows that interest in her paintings remains as high as ever.”

Willcox Smith was also represented in the auction’s top tier by her A Rainy Day, Dream Blocks original illustration, 1908, a classic painting from the artist clearly showing her skill at painting heartwarming family scenes. It realized $74,500.

Gil Elvgren, The King of Pin-Up artists, was amply represented in the auction and three of his paintings garnered spots in the top five of the auction: Quick Change, Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, 1967, from the Estate of Charles Martignette, realized $110,500, while his classic Peek-a-View, Louis F. Dow Company calendar illustration, 1940, brought $101,500 and his whimsical “Doggone!”, Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, 1946, finished the day at $83,500.

In what was perhaps the most interesting lot of the day, Covering Up, 1983, by the late, great Patrick Nagel, brought $56,250 amidst spirited bidding, to shatter the auction price realized record for the artist.

“This superb Nagel finished at more than five times its initial’ estimate,” said Jaster. “The realization that his art is as definitive of its period as the work of earlier artists such as Vargas and Petty were to theirs has obviously brought renewed interest in his work and has made for a significant bump in value.”

N. C. Wyeth’s Memgumban Gets the Idea, Red Cross magazine story illustration, February 1920, which realized $80,500, showed that the Wyeth art dynasty continues to be among the most important of American names,  while John Philip Falter’s humorous and wonderfully detailed Sunday Gardening, The Saturday Evening Post cover, July 1, 1961, nearly doubled its pre-auction estimate to bring $68,500. J.C. Leyendecker’s classic Saturday Evening Post cover from Dec. 31, 1927, New Year’s Baby, Beginning to Rain – one the artist’s best works of the 321 covers he created for the publication – was a hit at $68,500 and Leroy Neiman’s stunning Playboy Bunny, 1964, rounded out the auction’s top lots with a final price.

Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions is far and away the largest auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $800 million, and 750,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.

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