Friday, March 22, 2013

Steve Ditko Out of This World #11 Cover

Auction result: $15,535 on November 19, 2010.

Steve Ditko Out of This World #11 Cover Original Art (Charlton, 1959).

Is your mind blown yet? Here is one of the most iconic and infamous Charlton science fiction covers ever. Over fifty years after it was drawn, this piece has made it to market for the first time. For many comics fans, Steve Ditko's work for Charlton in the fifties was some of his most memorable. Bid high on this one -- the sky's the limit. This show-stopper has an image area of 13" x 19.5", and aside from missing a small Charlton logo stat at the upper left, and the CCA stamp at the right, the art is in Excellent condition.

J. C. Leyendecker Saturday Evening Post cover, November 24, 1928

Auction result: $98,587.50 on  October 31, 2004.

JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LEYENDECKER (1874-1951)Saturday Evening Post cover, November 24, 1928
Oil on canvas
28.5in. x 20.5in. (sight size)
Initialed lower left: JCL

As Michael Schau noted in J.C. Leyendecker, "Leyendecker painted his first Saturday Evening Post cover in 1899 and he continued to work for the magazine until 1943, creating 322 covers for The Post. The reputation gained as a result of his magazine covers established Leyendecker as one of America's most popular illustrators." This painting is reproduced on page 142 of Michael Schau's book. Leyendecker was elected to the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame in 1977.

This sensational painting shows America's evolution over three centuries of Thanksgiving holidays. From the accomplishments of the stern, pioneering, and freedom-fighting colonists of 1628, to the entertainments provided by the battered, yet playful grid-iron stalwarts of 1928, this blessed country has plenty to celebrate each November. Both figures regard each other as they are each given a heroic and monumental presence by Leyendecker. His vigorous and energetic brushwork bathes the figures in a sparkling light, creating a noble vision of pure Americana.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Norman Rockwell: Saturday Evening Post Cover Study 1944

Auction result: $203,105 on June 14, 2007.

A printed copy of the finished cover painting, for comparison.

NORMAN ROCKWELL (American 1894 - 1978)
Little Girl Observing Lovers on a Train, Saturday Evening Post cover study, 1944
Charcoal drawing on paper
33 x 28in.
Signed lower left

Norman Rockwell drew this finely detailed study for the cover scene which appeared on The Saturday Evening Post, August 12, 1944. In Norman Rockwell and the Saturday Evening Post, The Later Years, Dr. Donald R. Stoltz and Marshall L. Stoltz comment, "In this picture we see the serviceman and his best girl cherishing those few solitary moments together. Their thoughts are of only each other, and for just a little while, they will try to blot out of their minds that this leave like all other good things, must come to an end. The airman has lowered the window shade about as far as it will go and has hung his coat over the window to afford himself just a bit more privacy. Despite these precautions though, there is no way to shield themselves from the prying eyes of the young passenger in the front seat. She is closely watching the scene and waiting for that moment when the happy couple will again steal a little kiss. She will plant that picture firmly in the back of her mind so, first thing tomorrow morning, she can run and tell all her friends." In Norman Rockwell, 332 Covers, Christopher Finch adds, "Here we see a splendid example of Norman Rockwell's newly evolved style. It is very different from what we find in his work prior to the forties. It is almost as if we were looking at a candid photograph of some master of the genre like Henri Cartier-Bresson."

This work is reproduced as figure C412a on page 157 of Norman Rockwell A Definitive Catalogue by Laurie Moffatt. The caption notes that this work was inscribed in the lower right, "To Pvt. William Schmidt from Norman Rockwell."

This lot also includes a signed letter from Norman Rockwell to the consignor regarding the cover scene, as well as a framed puzzle box featuring the final painted magazine cover scene. The letter, dated June 15, 1971 reads, "Thank you for sending me the photographs of my painting. It was a Saturday Evening Post cover years ago. I wish I could tell you more about it but it was done so long ago that I don't remember who the models were that posed for it. I think I did it in New Rochelle, New York, but I am not even sure of that. The name 'William Schmidt' doesn't even mean anything to me. Sorry I can't be of any more help. Sincerely yours, Norman Rockwell"

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jessie Willcox Smith: A Child's Garden of Verses

Auction result: $310,700 on February 18, 2010.

JESSIE WILLCOX SMITH (American, 1863-1935)
A Child's Garden of Verses, book illustration, 1905
Mixed media on paperboard
33.5 x 23 in.
Signed lower right
This delightful piece hails from one of Jessie Willcox Smith's most important projects, and the masterfully composed, swirling composition is one of her most intricate, nothing less than a glowing celebration of childhood--and motherhood.

One of America's greatest illustrators, Jessie Willcox Smith attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and studied under Thomas Eakins in Philadelphia, and graduating in 1888. A year later, she found work in the production department of the Ladies' Home Journal, for five years. After that, she continued her art education with classes under Howard Pyle, first at Drexel and then at the Brandywine School.Smith then established her reputation, illustrating stories and articles for Century, Collier's Weekly, Leslie's Weekly, Harper's, McClure's, Scribner's, and the Ladies' Home Journal. Smith was closely associated with the artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley, who also studied with Pyle, and the group became known as "The Red Rose Girls." Smith's papers are deposited in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. From 1918 through 1932, Smith illustrated covers exclusively for Good Housekeeping magazine.

As Jessie Willcox Smith biographer S. Michael Schnessel has aptly observed, "Jessie Willcox Smith was the creator of the ideal child. She pictured a child that was without equal in reality -- innocent, unblemished, never naughty, always perfect. Smith's touching, sensitive portraits of children at play won her the hearts of millions of Americans."
This illustration appeared on page 116 of Robert Louis Stevenson's book, A Child's Garden of Verses, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905.

Smith's unparallel talent for figure painting with personality is on full display in this charming group portrait.

From an Important California Collection.

Don sez: From 2006-2010, I catalogued both original Comic and Illustration Art. After Heritage Auctions acquired the Charles Martignette Estate and exponentially ramped-up the scale and frequency of the Illustration Art  Signature Sales, I had to admit, super-savant or not, I couldn't maintain the pace required -- so in late 2010, it was back to Comic Art only. My father, Marvin D. Mangus, was a landscape painter from the Pennsylvania Impressionist tradition, exported to Alaska, and I grew up immersed in the works and lore of well-known Pennsylvania artists and illustrators such as Thomas Eakins and Howard Pyle -- I was thrilled to at this chance drop their names into my description.

Norman Rockwell: The Song of Bernadette

Auction result: $478,000 on November 18, 3005.

NORMAN ROCKWELL (American, 1894-1978)
The Song of Bernadette, 1944
Oil on Canvas
53in. x 28in.
Signed lower right: Norman Rockwell
Inscribed along lower edge in block letters: 'BERNADETTE' (overpainted by artist himself)
Original Movie Poster Illustration featuring Jennifer JonesLiterature: Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Laurie Norton Moffatt, p.82, fig. A607
Norman Rockwell, Illustrator, Arthur Guptill, p.132

Norman Rockwell's famous full-length portrait, The Song of Bernadette, was the most reproduced work of Rockwell's entire career. With its somber palette and astonishing realism, this work is stunning in its conception and execution, recalling seventeenth century genre paintings by such masters as Diego Velasquez and Jusepe de Ribera.

This original work was commissioned as the centerpiece of an unprecedented publicity campaign announcing a film of the same name by David O. Selznick and starring Jennifer Jones, which opened in December, 1943. 'Nothing else I have ever painted was reproduced in so many ways,' said Rockwell of this work.

Peyton Boswell Jr., editor of the Art Digest and author of Modern American Painting, provided many captions in the official press book for the 20th Century-Fox production of Franz Werfel's novel, The Song of Bernadette. In the book, Boswell chronicles the events in Rockwell's life immediately prior to his creation of this work:

'Early in 1943, Norman Rockwell completed his famous series of paintings, The Four Freedoms. Now his stature became international and he was the recipient of a global wave of acclaim. It was at this time that the artist conceived of a subject comparable in emotional appeal and perhaps even more challenging to his mature craftsmanship. He saw Jennifer Jones as the simple girl of Lourdes in The Song of Bernadette, and she was the inspiration for one of his finest canvases. Here, through the medium of one lone girl, glorious and exalted, could be created a painting to inspire people of all walks of life. This portrait of Bernadette will reach the hearts of all who see it - for in its subtle expressiveness, in every stroke of the brush - it conveys the essence of everything that was so movingly written into The Song of Bernadette.'

In this the most highly acclaimed film of 1945, Jennifer Jones starred in the title role of Bernadette Sobirous, the Maid of Lourdes, whose fame derived from her unshakable faith and courage. Film reviewers enthused: 'In the title role of the Maid of Lourdes, Jennifer Jones makes the most auspicious debut in Hollywood history. Here is a star -- and one who has flared into being with a brilliance that shines the mark of greatness. A bow to David O. Selznick for her discovery!' Indeed, the film won five Academy Awards, including 'Best Actress of the Year' for Miss Jones.

In the press book for the film, the image is reproduced over fifty times, including one with a photograph of the artist at work at his easel. In Arthur Guptill's monograph, Norman Rockwell, Illustrator, which features this work on page 132, Rockwell commented, 'Nothing else I ever painted was reproduced in so many ways. In addition to its being run in magazines, newspapers, and on theatre posters, I was told that it covered the entire wall of one eight-story building.' In an essay for the Norman Rockwell Museum's 1999 show of Rockwell movie poster art, the author noted: 'In an unusually ambitious 20th Century Fox publicity campaign, advertising director Charles Schlaifer decided to use a 150-foot high display of Rockwell's illustration for The Song of Bernadette above a Broadway theater marquee. According to Schlaifer, 'It absolutely sold the picture' and was one of the most effective pieces ever created for a motion picture.

Laurie Norton Moffatt's comprehensive Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue reproduces the work on page 483, as entry A607, and notes that the painting's location was unknown for a number of years. It was later discovered in the private collection of the film's producer, William Perlberg (1900-1968). Ownership subsequently passed to the Mount Saint Mary's Academy in Los Angeles; thence, to the present owner.

Included in this lot is the large 32-page press book for the film, and a copy of Norman Rockwell, Illustrator.

Don sez: When I described this stunning Norman Rockwell movie poster painting from the forties, I was struck by how much it reminded me of the Diego Velasquez masterworks I used to study at the Meadows Museum in SMU and so I worked that into my description. I used to vist the Velasquez paintings frequently when I was earning my BFA and MFA degrees in 1974-81. Anyway, the heartfelt "magic realism" of this Rockwell painting, stripped of NR's usual lighthearted Americana, was that good, IMHO.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

HA Hall of Fame Description: Frank Frazetta "The Solar Invasion" Cover Painting

Auction result: $262,900, on November 16,2012

Frank Frazetta The Solar Invasion Paperback Cover Original Art (Popular Library, 1968). 

Manley Wade Wellman's pulp hero Captain Future is ready for cosmic adventure in an eye-popping cover painting by Frank Frazetta. This classic fantasy painting from the master's peak period is one of the finest examples we have ever offered, boldly incorporating all the elements collectors could hope for in a published Frazetta cover -- a ruggedly handsome hero with weapon drawn, flanked by not one but two beautiful Frazetta girls, all framed within a masterfully dramatic composition. As Frazetta expert "Doc" Dave Winiewicz tells us, "Frank thought it was the most ambitious and most successful of all his early sci-fi compositions and was particularly happy about the girls. He thought they had a special sexy quality about them. Frank also was pleased with the color blending in the background -- he was disappointed that the published paperback washed out the intensity of the colors. I remember Frank explaining to me how the foreground snake creature, the mid-ground characters, and the colorful background all worked well to present a nice three dimensional presentation. Everything 'stood out' that was supposed to stand out. Frank said: 'I always want your eyes to go where I want them to go. If I can do that, then it's a success.'"

This oil on canvas painting measures approximately 17.5" x 23.5", and has been attractively matted and framed, without glass, for an overall size of 25" x 31". It was given a light protective coating of clear varnish, and is in Excellent condition. This magnificent painting has remained out of the public eye, stashed away in the same private collection since the 1970s -- the very definition of a fresh-to-the-market masterpiece by the greatest fantasy artist of all time.

Don Sez: I plan on adding  some addition commentary and insights to these posts of some of the art I've described, when I get the time, so check back on my earlier listings. There is no contemporary comic artist more highly regarded than Frank Frazetta by comic and illustration art collectors. It's often startling to see the original art supply store sticker of 29 cents found on the backd of his vintage canvas boards. Apparently, true genius needs no expensive materials.

Monday, March 18, 2013

HA Hall of Fame Description: John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #121 Cover

Auction result: $286,800 on February 22, 2013

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #121 "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" Cover Original Art (Marvel, 1973).

 Some say the death of Gwen Stacy marked the end of the Silver Age of comics. "This was the end of innocence for comics... it remains one of the most potent stories ever published," was Arnold Blumberg's comment in Comic Book Marketplace.

The caption at the lower right crystallizes the theme of the most desirable piece of 1970s comic art we've auctioned to date. "Not a trick! Not an imaginary tale -- but the most startling unexpected turning point in this web-slinger's entire life. How can Spider-Man go on after being faced with this almost unbelievable death?"

It's a story that fans still talk about, and the most senses-shattering deathblow in comics. Letters from outraged fans flooded the Marvel offices.
The loss of Gwen marked nothing less than an end to the carefree fun and offbeat innocence of the Silver Age era. Spider-Man and the Marvel Age of Heroes were never quite so merry after this story.

This dynamic cover spotlights the taut suspense in an almost unbearable manner -- who among the beloved ASM cast would die? Many a fan thought, "Oh, please let it be Norman Osborn." Any Spider-fan who bought this issue off the spinner-rack has this iconic scene seared into his/her comic consciousness. With this scene, John Romita and Gerry Conway marked a tragic milestone for the world-famous Spider-Man saga launched by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee -- and for Marvelites, landmark issue covers just can't get better than this.

The image area of this eye-popping bombshell, showcasing John Romita Sr. at the height of his talent, measures 10" x 15". The art has some overall paper aging, a horizontal crease in the middle (at the level of the top of Spider-Man's head), a tear on the right side, and scattered staining that has little effect on the overwhelming power of the image; otherwise, the art is in Very Good condition. John Romita signed the page at the lower right. It's not just a classic cover -- it's a priceless piece of Bronze Age Marvel lore.

Don sez: I missed out on describing the most valuable piece of American comic art at auction to date, Todd MacFarlane's cover art for Amazing Spider-Man #328. My former cube-mate Mark Stokes, creator of the web comic Zombie Boy, did the honors of writing that one up. We all expected the Spider-Man #1 cover to be the top lot. It jost goes to show, you just never know what will happen in any given auction!

Auction result: an astounding $657,250 on July 26, 2012. This world-record lot was described by Mark Stokes.

HA Hall of Fame Description: Spider-Man #1 Cover

Auction result: $358,500 on July 26. 2012

Todd McFarlane Spider-Man #1 Cover Original Art (Marvel, 1990).

This issue was nothing less than the single biggest-selling comic book of all time to that point in terms of dollars generated. The initial press run was 2.35 million copies, a number not seen in comics since the 1950s, and Marvel had to print hundreds of thousands more to meet demand. Five different editions were produced, all featuring the cover art shown here.

In 1990, there was no bigger star in comic art than Todd McFarlane, who was coming off a run on Amazing Spider-Man that gave the character an exciting new look. For this first issue, he took over as the writer as well, and fans couldn't wait to see what he would come up with next. One of his trademarks was Spider-Man's intricate webbing, painstakingly drawn, and as impressive as that was on the printed page -- it's even more so with the art in your hands.

Long held in a private collection, and fresh to the market, this is without a doubt, one of the most famous covers we've had the privilege to offer.

Bob Overstreet has commented that the excitement caused by this issue "spilled over to the entire Marvel line and to DC and other publishers as well." Very few comics in the history of the medium have had that sort of impact.

This timeless Marvel masterwork has an image area of 9.75" x 15", and is in Excellent condition.
Boldly signed by Todd McFarlane in its lower border.

From the Shamus Modern Masterworks Collection.

Don sez: While modern comic books themselves are so common as to seldom achieve staggering sums from collectors -- the original art is blowing original art fandom's socks off. Works from the 1990s are fetching astronomical figures. Of course, a key vintage Marvel cover has yet to surface, and it would be quite interesting to see what an early cover from the sixties would bring at auction. I'm standing by to describe such a piece.

HA Hall of Fame Description: Batman: The Dark Knight #3 Splash Page 10

Auction result: $448,125 on May 5 2011

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Batman: The Dark Knight #3 Batman and Robin Iconic Splash Page 10 Original Art (DC, 1986).

Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns defined the best of 1980s comics, and has since been universally acknowledged as one of the most important and influential stories ever published.

Miller is arguably the greatest superhero writer/artist to work during this period, and Dark Knight is his undisputed masterpiece -- the four-issue series rejuvenated Batman as DC's most popular character and in the process helped revitalize the comics industry. This splash page is to our minds the single most memorable image from the entire book and the greatest image from the decade ever to come to market -- as well as one of the handful of most desirable pieces of original comic art from any era to come to market. A perfect stand-alone image of Batman and Robin (Carrie Kelley, the first female, full-time Robin) soaring high above Gotham City, an icon symbolizing the entire storyline -- this one has everything going for it.

As demonstrated by the fact that we've only offered two Dark Knight panel pages previously -- and the fact that no splash page, much less a such an undeniably classic image, has never been offered at auction -- artwork from the famed series is much scarcer than anything else from the period. This gem has been locked away in a single collection since being purchased upon the series' original publication and is the definition of "fresh to market." And unlike many pages from the series, where differences between the original art and the published version are evident (as a result of Miller making changes on pasteovers), no changes were made to this artwork for publication, and the original contains no paste-ups or stats -- it's pure art, just the way it appeared in print.

Definitive is the only adequate description of this masterpiece, and as such, it was chosen to represent the entire time period in DC's recent 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking book, serving as the chapter heading for "The Dark Age: 1984-1998," and reproduced as a glorious color full-page image, leading off the chapter on page 556.
n 2005, Time magazine ranked The Dark Knight Returns as one of the top ten graphic novels ever created. As Alan Moore wrote about the series: "Beyond the imagery, themes, and essential romance of Dark Knight, Miller has also managed to shape the Batman into a true legend by introducing that element without which all true legends are incomplete and yet which for some reason hardly seems to exist in the world depicted in the average comic book, and that element is time... time has come to the Batman and the capstone that makes legends what they are has finally been fitted. In his engrossing story of a great man's final and greatest battle, Miller has managed to create something radiant which should hopefully illuminate things for the rest of the comic book field, casting a new light upon the problems which face all of us working within the industry and perhaps even guiding us towards some fresh solutions."

In short, this is one of the most important pieces of original comic book art Heritage has ever had the pleasure to offer.
his iconic masterpiece from "Hunt the Dark Knight" has an image area of 11.5" x 17.75", and aside from some very light paper aging in the image area and some passages of white-out, the art is in Excellent condition.

"I've always loved that drawing. Danced around my studio like a fool when I drew it. I hope it finds a good home."  --Frank Miller

Don sez: Frank Miller proved a trailblazer once again as his splash page bought the highest hammer price of comic art at an American auction. However, he was soon toppled from the top spot by his Marvel peer, Todd McFarlane. Comic art from the 1980s and 1990s has arrived.