Norman Rockwell’s signature masterpiece The Song of Bernadette, one of the most reproduced works of his entire career, may take top lot honors Oct. 26 in Heritage Auctions’ Illustration Art Signature® auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, 2 E. 79th St., New York, which will feature the most impressive selection by the greatest names in illustration ever offered by Heritage. Rockwell’s original movie poster illustration was commissioned as the centerpiece of an unprecedented publicity campaign for the 1943 film classic starring Jennifer Jones.
“Rockwell’s full-length The Song of Bernadette is considered one of the artist’s great works and a true triumph of illustration art as fine art,” said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President at Heritage. “As a wildly popular movie poster, it was among the most reproduced images of Rockwell’s entire career and remains so long after the movie won five Academy Awards.”
Defining works in the auction include A Child’s Prayer, a book cover painted in 1925 by the revered Jessie Willcox Smith. Smith widely acclaimed for her illustrations of children and A Child’s Prayer is an iconic example of her warm and tender style. The signature masterpiece has never before been offered on the market, being held in a private collection since it was painted.
The auction will also feature Harvard Crew Team, a stunning oil on canvas by J.C. Leyendecker published as an advertisement for the Howard Watch Company in 1907. Among the most beautifully painted of the artist’s career, the work appeared in print often in its early years, including Collier’s Magazine in 1909.
Stevan Dohanos’ The Future Fireman, painted for the cover of the Nov. 14, 1953 edition of The Saturday Evening Post is a pristine view of pure Americana and remains one of his most recognizable images from the many classic covers he produced for the magazine.
The Artist and His Model by Dean Cornwell, also never before offered at auction, is a peak period masterpiece by the popular and influential illustrator who gained fame working in the decorative Brandywine technique. Cornwell was once a WPA muralist whose work is now highly sought after for its detailed representations of complex social settings and is seen as one of the greatest technical painters to work in the field.
In addition to these landmark works, the Oct. 26 event marks debut of The Frank Collection of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Art. Long referenced as one of the greatest collections known to exist, the group holds a number of crowning achievements, such as Virgil Finlay’s iconic, 1956 cover painting for Other Worlds Science Stories magazine titled Viridi, Goddess of Nature. The collection also offers Biomechanoid II by Swiss master H.R. Giger, the artist responsible for the Academy-Award winning designs for the movie Alien, and Michael Whelan’s famous diptych Lovescraft’s Nightmare from 1981.
Heritage is known as the No. 1 source for classic pin-up art and heading a stellar group of high-end examples is Gil Elvgren’s Lucky Dog from 1958, considered the best ever painted by the king of the genre. A rare and jaw-dropping pin-up masterpiece by Alberto Vargas titled Varga Girl (Redhead with Black Cat) from 1919 was so appreciated by the artist that it was one of the few he retained for his personal collection.
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