Saturday, August 13, 2011

Krazy Kat Specialty Pieces

George Herriman's Krazy Kat is surely the most imaginative and absurd comic strip of all time.  The trio of Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse, and Offissa Bull Pupp were the main characters involved in an eternal love-hate triangle, but there were many other characters as well. Herriman created a number of presentation drawings or, if you prefer, specialty pieces featuring these characters from the strip, and select friends and fans were the lucky recipients. I have included a few of these wonderful presentation pieces below following the spectacular Christie's auction listing from 1997. One thing about almost all these examples: even when the characters are standing stock still, these drawings seem to have so much energy and vitality. I find them all to be breathtakingly beautiful as well.



Price Realized

    $15,000 - $20,000
    Sale Information
    New York, Christie's East
Lot Description
Krazy Kat Specialty Piece 9/9/1933
In the magical world of George Herriman nothing was the way it was supposed to be in the real world. We have a cat (Krazy) who loves a mouse (Ignatz) who feels nothing but disdain for Krazy and he demonstrates this by constantly throwing bricks at Krazy, who in turn takes this as a sign of affection. The third member of this unlikely group is Offissa Pup, who is constantly protecting Krazy from Ignatz. Their eternal love triangle is played out in the Arizona desert, namely Coconino County.

On a rare occasion Herriman was known to either hand color a previously published page or create a specialty piece for presentation to a favored individual. Herriman was deft with watercolor using translucent layers of color to express himself. These were personal expressions that carried the same sort of sympathetic warmth that his poetic Kat was known to convey. In some instances Herriman even perfected his message with a custom mat and frame which he fabricated. This newly discovered specialty piece is one of a handful known to exist. It exhibits the finest balance and proportion of any known. Coupled with its extraordinary size and original mat and frame, it represents a truly exemplary piece. Features the principal figures. Inscribed TO "GAY" BEAMAN AHLA-HAHNEH, signed, watercolor on board-14 x 20 in.

Only a handful? I don't know about that. Here are a few more stunning examples, perhaps several handfuls, really in no particular order, but "oldest" first:
From Illustration House
Presentation drawing: ca. 1936; pen & ink, watercolor, 8.5 x 9.75" 

Drawing for H. P. Raleigh, circa 1925.
From Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon. Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, page 75. Many such works came to light when this book was researched.

From Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration, by Craig Yoe, Abrams ComicArts, 2011. Posted by Tony Hightower with this caption: “Is that art?” Offissa Pupp asks. The inscription reads, “Elmer’––Yern––Herriman.” Elmer “Al” Raguse Sr. was the director of sound at Hal Roach Studios. Late 1930s. Previously unpublished. Credit: KRAZY KAT™ Hearst Holdings, Inc. Illustration courtesy of The Raguse Family.  Credit: KRAZY KAT™ Hearst Holdings, Inc. Courtesy of Craig Yoe’s collection of Herriman art. 
Added November 11, 2011.

More posing, this time for the camera:

George Herriman, Specialty drawing of Ignatz Mouse, Offissa Bull Pupp, and Krazy Kat posing for a photograph.
Inscribed, "To that 'Gran Caballero'--y,--/'Charro Pomposo'--/From--/the Ole Peon--'Herriman'/Jan 1934."
Heritage Auctions, February 22, 2013
Image added October 1, 2013

"To 'Harry Frandsen' Mit luff und dewotion -- from Geo. Herriman" 
Posted by owner Rob Pistella on the Comic Art Fans page.

George Herriman, Untitled (Krazy Kat), 1939
Watercolor, inscribed with a dedication to Boyden Sparkes. International Museum of Cartoon Art. © 2005 Reprinted with permission of King Features Syndicate.  From the collection of Ohio State University.

Drawing dedicated to Mr. E. B. Crosswhite, c. 1940.  
From Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon. Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, page 83.

George Herriman, To Arthur Escollier. This one sold for $11,500 at Heritage in 2002. I believe previous to this it had been on eBay and then was at Illustration House.

An ink and watercolor drawing from 1932. It is dedicated to Mrs. Gladys T. Clements and posted by current owner Rob Pistella on the Comic Art Fans page. "AH-LA-HAHNI" is nearly the same greeting as in the example from  Christie's at the top of the page.

From Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration, by Craig Yoe, Abrams ComicArts, 2011, page 8. Posted by Tony Hightower with this caption: "The essence of the unholy triangle between the Kat, the Mouse, and the Pupp." Previously unpublished. 1930s. Credit: KRAZY KAT™ Hearst Holdings, Inc. Courtesy of Craig Yoe’s collection of Herriman art. (This work photographed in its frame is posted by owner Rob Pistella on the Comic Art Fans page.)
 Image added November 11, 2011.

George Herriman, "If only 'Ignatz' could hendle one that size--Ooy--"Inscribed "To 'Fred Myer'/who had the nerve to ask for it--/from Geo. Herriman/who had the nerve to give it to him./1933"
Image added February 1, 2014

A 1936 Herriman drawing dedicated to Marie Weiss and posted by owner Rarebit Fiend on the Comic Art Fans page.

Listing from Heritage Auctions:
George Herriman Krazy Kat and Ignatz Specialty Illustration Original Art (c. 1936). This lyrical George Herriman specialty illustration of his famed cat and mouse characters was signed and inscribed, "To Elmer Bramon from ole man Herriman." This gem of a drawing has an overall size of 6" x 8", and aside from a small flake of black ink out of the center of the upper edge, the art is in Very Good condition. A mini-masterwork.

Herriman, George:(American, 1880-1944) was the creator of the critically acclaimed Krazy Kat comic strip feature. He was born in a light-skinned, Creole African-American family in New Orleans, Louisiana. Herriman's father moved the family to Los Angeles in order to avoid the onerous restrictions of Jim Crow laws in Louisiana. Many of Herriman's newspaper colleagues had the mistaken impression that Herriman's ancestry was Greek, and according to close friends of Herriman, he wore a hat at all times so as to hide his hair. His other earlier newspaper comic strips include Musical Mose, Professor Otto and His Auto, Major Ozone's Fresh Air Crusade, Gooseberry Sprigg, and The Family Upstairs/The Dingbat Family. Herriman also illustrated writer Don Marquis' popular stories and poems featuring the whimsical cockroach and cat, archie and mehitabel. Herriman’s timeless Krazy Kat strips and specialty drawings have hung in museums, been the subject of academic treatises, and appeared on a US postage stamp.
Image added March 4, 2012.

A 1922 drawing from the rarities page of Craig Yoe and Clizia Gussoni. They write:
Herriman did quite a few "specialty pieces" for friends and fans but this is supposedly the only one with Ignatz throwing a brick at Krazy Kat. From the collection of Craig Yoe thanks to Rick Marschall.

This 1936 page is also from the rarities page of, where they explain:
Apparently a long-ago fan wrote a couple of top vintage cartoonists and asked them to type a short bio on a piece of paper illustrated in their hand. This is Herriman's contribution to this early fan's scrapbook, from the collection of Craig Yoe.

A 1921 specialty piece inscribed "To Sir Michael" posted by owner glen gold on the Comic Art Fans page.

"Ah-Lah-Hah-Nih" !!! "from the Folks of Kokonino Kounty" and Ole Man Herriman.
From Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration, by Craig Yoe, Abrams ComicArts, 2011. 
Added to post November 13, 2011. 

From the collection of Fawcett's Antique Toy Museum in Waldoboro, Maine, a drawing given to Herriman's friend Harley M. "Beanie" Walker.

Also given to the Walkers is this anniversary piece again from Fawcett's Antique Toy Museum.  It doesn't have any figures from the Krazy Kat strip, but it does feature a tardy Herriman himself furiously pumping a handcar on the far right under a Kokonino moon.  Can you see all the way over there?

For Harold "Hal" Rosson and actress Jean Harlow, Xmas 1933.  From Fawcett's Antique Toy Museum.

Detail of the above.

Painted on a window shade for his daughter Toots at a party. Again from Fawcett's Antique Toy Museum.

To Mrs. Irving C. Valentine, a fan, circa 1925.
Reproduced in Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon.  Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, page 6.

This one looks a little different and may actually be a hand-colored Sunday panel. Reproduced on the cover of Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon. Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986.

From Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration, by Craig Yoe, Abrams ComicArts, 2011, page 92-93. Posted by Tony Hightower with this caption:  A blue velour-covered book was presented to William Randolph Hearst by the artists of the King Features Syndicate in honor of his 79th birthday. The artists included Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon), Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), Chic Young (Blondie), and George Herriman. Herriman’s dedication reads, “Could be our boss. Could be our chief. Could be our friend. Could BE.––Herriman, ‘Enchanted Masa.’ A.D.?” April 29, 1942. Previously unpublished. Credit: KRAZY KAT™ Hearst Holdings, Inc. Courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries. 
 --Added to post November 12, 2011.

This volume sold at Heritage Auctions in November 2010 for $33,460.
 --Added November 19, 2011.
Herriman was one of 35 King Features strip cartoonists contributing greetings to a book presented to publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst in December of 1943. This is his page. The book bore the title Christmas Greetings to William Randolph Hearst 1943. The entire volume was sold at Heritage Auctions in November of 2010 for $33,460.
Added to post November 19, 2011.

There are no major characters here, but we're definitely still in Kokonino Kounty. This image had been on the Comic Art Fans page but is no longer posted there. What is the world coming to? From the collection of Rob Pistella.

A drawing from 1940 given to Herriman's granddaughter Dinah. This landscape is very similar to that of the stork drawing just above. From Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon. Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, page 71.  

Painting given to son-in-law Ernest Pascal, 1932.  Ibid.

I'm including this one here since it seems stylistically and thematically similar to the painting above. It is dedicated to British actor Roland Young. From Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration, by Craig Yoe, Abrams ComicArts, 2011.  Source here. 
Added to this post September 30, 2011.

A 1941 piece presented to "Doc. Double Eff Petty, the Wild West's baa-adest two gum dentist." Exhibited at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, February 6 to April 29, 2007.

Watercolor for Carl Harbaugh, c. 1925. "To my good friend 'Carl' in hope that this may cure him of 'asking for things'--Geo. Herriman" [all capitals] with another stork visiting Kokonino Kounty.
From Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon. Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, page 79. Offered for sale at Galerie Lambiek.

Detail of the above.

Unpublished drawing of Gooseberry Sprig, January 1910. From Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, and Georgia Riley de Havenon. Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, page 50.
 Added to this post on November 12, 2011.

Pencil drawing, c. 1920's, on package paper in somewhat sad condition. Could this be dedicated to someone in Staten Island? Posted by owner Stephen Donnelly on the Comic Art Fans Page. Recently sold by him on eBay along with a Herriman Krazy Kat book for $199.

On November 17, 2011, this 1929 specialty sketch in pencil by George Herriman was sold at Heritage Auctions along with a sketch by Charles Wellington and another sketch by Tom McNamarara for $1075.50.
Image added March 4, 2012.

Lot listing and item description from Legendary Auctions: Americana, Fall 2002 Sale:
Lot #1188: Original George Herriman Presentation Sketch of His Three Main Krazy Kat Characters
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on: 11/15/2002
Minimum Bid:$200
Final Bid(Includes Buyers Premium):$253
Included within this small India ink on paper work are a hatless Offica Pup, a tailless Ignatz the Mouse, and a bodiless Krazy Kat, the three main cast members for the marvelously imaginative Krazy Kat newspaper strip by George Herriman (1880-1944). It can be said that Herriman's imagination was simultaneously his greatest strength and his greatest weakness, for while his publisher, William Randolph Hearst, loved the strip, every single one of the editors on his many papers absolutely detested it. They didn't understand it, and could not accept its absurdist humor. Worse than that, they reported that their readers hated it too! Despite this, Hearst ordered its continuation, and it still regularly appeared in all his papers. A reader usually had trouble finding it though, for the editors would hide it in the magazine section, the theatre section, or worst of all for everyone concerned, within the ad pages. (The advertisers regularly threatened to pull their ads if it wasn't put back with the other comics, as they felt that readers would skip the ad section entirely, in avoidance of the strip.) As the strip toned down its level of absurdism in its later years, it eventually found its way back to the funny pages, but it was an incredibly rough ride while it lasted. The clever strip that started in 1916, ended in 1944 with Herriman's death. It is today considered to be one of the all time greats in the history of the comics.
Item: Original George Herriman ink on paper presentation sketch of Krazy Kat's three main characters, nicely matted with a visible image area that measures 6.5 by 3.75 inches in size. It is boldly signed below the artwork with Herriman's highly stylized signature. While undated, it would appear to be a late interpretation of the characters, probably dating from the 1940's.
Added to post December 22, 2011

These are the specialty pieces I was able to find on the web. I did not make any of my own scans. I believe Herriman made other specialty pieces, possibly many others, and that some of these may currently be residing with the grandchildren of the recipients or with private collectors. If you should happen to have a high quality scan or image of a similar specialty piece by George Herriman and you would like to have it posted here alongside these remarkable pieces, please send me the image and tell me whatever you know about it. Maybe we can share it with the world.

You can kontact me at the email address listed on this blog, docnad (at) aol (dot) com.

Links, also in no particular order. Those images I've added more recently have links to the sources located in the individual captions:

The Christie's specialty piece auction that started this whole thing:

The Herriman biography page from Illustration House, with the drawing of the aged characters:

The 1930's drawing for Harry Frandsen:

The 1939 watercolor from the International Museum of Cartoon Art:

Heritage Auction Gallery's 2002 sale.  You'll need to register to see it all:

This little masterpiece once belonged to Jack Gilbert and now belongs to Rob Pistella:

Another Rob Pistella piece photographed in its frame but no longer a part of this post:

The work owned by Rarebit Fiend. Yes, he also has Winsor McKay drawings:

Yoe & Yoe's rarities page:

This is glen gold's watercolor. What does he have against capital letters?

Fawcett's Antique Toy Museum:

For the identification of Jean Harlow's Hal as husband Hal Rosson and not Hal Roach, I am indebted to the discussion at

The drawing for Mrs. Irving C. Valentine:

Bill Watterson's introduction to the Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat, Vol. 1. Worth its weight in gold bricks:

Museum exhibition with the big tooth:

The Ignatz Archives has a few incredible scans from Krazy Kat:  The Comic Art of George Herriman:
Stephen Donnelly's pencil drawing on package paper:

The closed eBay listing of the same pencil drawing:

These links are generally accurate at the time of posting, but I am not going to attempt to keep them up to date.  Now for one last brick courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service:



  1. I could look at George's work endlessly. Ah, to have window shades like the one he did for his daughter all over the house. Might as well be greedy since it's never going to happen. I said it before (somewhere in this marvelous maze you have here - I left a comment) and I'll say it again. You should be very proud of this place. I have to restrain myself from talking like Krazy.


  2. Leo, your original comment--and my response--are indeed "somewhere in this marvelous maze," specifically on Blog Post No. 100 from October 3, 2011.

    Thank you for your kind words. I too continually marvel at the sheer inventiveness of Herriman's work. I like the fact that you and he are on a first-name basis.

  3. i think krazy kat, is very very very funny, i like it, wait so drawing more.. again
    bye regards♥

    1. Thanks for the comment, Rosella! I enjoy Krazy Kat too. Keep on drawing!

  4. Que buena recopilación del arte de Krazy Kat, muchas gracias por tan maravillosas imágenes, las disfrute todas. Que ganas de tener una en mi living, jajaja.

    1. Sí, Jean, que sería genial tener ese espléndido arte cerca. Gracias por tu comentario.

    2. Yes, Jean, it would be great to have that splendid art nearby. Thanks for your comment.

  5. I know I am years late but I just happened upon your postings looking for a good Krazy Kat scan. What a treasure you have here; they are absolutely gorgeous and with the proper information with it. Where am I? I spent so much time reading and looking and reading and looking some more. And then all those links, holy moly where am I going to find the time? It's like a beautiful gift. Thank you for sharing. I grew up on Krazy Kat and Ignatz; they were always my favorite (with Heckle and Jeckle). red-lipstick

    1. You're not late at all. I updated the post just last month to get it ready for you. So far I'm afraid I have no Heckle and Jeckle though.

  6. Such wonderful, wonderful work. I remember when that Gladys Clements collection was first unearthed some 25 or 30 years ago. I have a binder with photocopies of the entire collection. The sketch of Ignatz beaning Krazy is one that I found at an antique shop in Colorado many moons ago, and traded to Rick Marschall. The Herriman self-portrait is one that I also traded to Rick a long, long time ago, which led to one of my Sunday pages. Memories...