Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Searle at Sworders

It's just like England to have a venerable auction house established in 1782 that I never heard of. I turn to Sworders today because they have just sold two drawings by Ronald Searle from the early 1950's. By this time, Searle had changed all the rules for what constituted an acceptable humorous gag, and in the process catapulted to the top of his field.

There will always be those who see girlhood in terms of its innocence and the Christmas tradition in terms of sentiment. Searle will have none of that. I can't even begin to explain what's funny about the first drawing of three St. Trinian's schoolgirls, but something has gone horribly wrong in the upbringing of these children. Searle, a former prisoner-of-war, revels in his depiction of remorseless childhood cruelty, and we, his co-conspirators, go along with it. 

Lot 832 Description:

*Ronald Searle (b.1920) THREE ST. TRINIAN`S SCHOOLGIRLS. Signed l.r. with initials and inscribed l.l. `for Oscar Pollak from the artist Sept 1950`, pen and ink, 11 x 8cm. *Artist`s resale rights may apply to this lot.

Lot 833 Description:

*Ronald Searle (b.1920) CAROL SINGING. Signed and dated 1952 l.r., inscribed verso `design for a Christmas card`, pen and ink and watercolour, 26 x 33cm. Exhibited: Chris Beetles, London, `The Illustrators, The British Art of Illustration 1800-1991`, no. 542. *Artist`s resale rights may apply to this lot.
  • Price Realised: £3,100

The drawing Carol Singing is just wonderful in how it upends our notions of Christmas revelry. Three children and a dog regale an elderly, deaf woman with Christmas carols, and there's not a smile in the bunch. Even the dog is unhappy.

As the lot description notes, these unhappy carolers appeared in Chris Beetles's 1991 sale catalogue as no. 542. 'Tis the season to note that the next item in that catalogue, no. 543, turns the tables on Santa:
Ronald Searle,  One for You, One for Me

Sale Date

  • 28 Nov 2011 1pm
  • 29 Nov 2011 10am

Venue Address

  • Stansted Mountfitchet Salerooms
  • Cambridge Road
  • Stansted Mountfitchet
  • Essex
  • CM24 8GE
  • United Kingdom

May 12, 2012 Update:  Both drawings from this auction are currently offered for sale by London art dealer Chris Beetles in his exhibition Ronald Searle Remembered, May 22 - June 9, 2012. The drawing of the three St. Trinian's Schoolgirls is available at 4,500 GBP. Sworders lots carry a 20% buyer's premium, so the dealer markup is 127% above cost.  

Carol Singing sold at auction at Sworders for  3,100 GBP, or 3,720 GBP with the buyer's premium. The current selling price of 7,500 GBP therefore represents a markup of 102%.

Item 47, Ronald Searle Remembered exhibition sale price, Chris Beetles Gallery, May 22 - June 9, 2012

Item 153, Ronald Searle Remembered catalogue, Chris Beetles Gallery, May 22 - June 9, 2012

Item 153, Ronald Searle Remembered exhibition sale price, Chris Beetles Gallery, May 11 - June 9, 2012
Ronald Searle, Three St. Trinian's Schoolgirls, Chris Beetles Gallery

Ronald Searle, Carol Singing, Chris Beetles Gallery

May 28, 2012 Update:  The original drawing entitled St. Trinian's Schoolgirls which was offered for sale by Chris Beetles at 4,500 GBP is now listed by the gallery as sold. In addition, the drawing Carol Singing which was offered for sale by the gallery at 7,500 GBP is now listed as sold.

Note:  It seems I'm adding posts about Ronald Searle all the time, and you can see my most recent one here with a cat drawing never before seen in cyberspace.

Of course, there's no reason for me to write about Searle at all! Matt Jones has already done all the legwork. Check this out for a treasure trove of Searle Christmas cards, including the one made from Carol Singing, above!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My All-Time Favorite New Yorker Cover (If I Had to Pick Only One)

I'm someone who looks at a lot of New Yorker magazine covers, so many that it's nearly impossible to pick a favorite. Yet I actually do, I believe, have a steady favorite, and it just turned sixty years old! The cover has absolutely no relevance to anything I've seen or done in my own life and it's a gag so straightforward and simple that I can't believe it's kept its hold on me for decades. I'm not going to try to explain it, out of fear of ruining the effect. The artist, of course, is Peter Arno:

Peter Arno, The New Yorker, November 17, 1951

I believe the original artwork is in the collection of Harry's Bar, London.

Note: This may be my all-time favorite New Yorker cover, but my favorite magazine cover of all time is actually Graphis No. 185, which is illustrated not with a drawing but with a photograph by Phil Marco. You can see it here.

My most recent post on Peter Arno, entitled Pilgrim's Progress, can be found right here.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Tiffany Studios Favrile Glass Vases

On December 17, Christie's New York will hold a sale of Magnificent Tiffany: Including Property from the Estate of Jeanne Laverne Dailey. Louis Comfort Tiffany's studios produced some of the most memorable art glass of the art nouveau era. For many years, when art nouveau was out of fashion, this incredible legacy of beautiful glass was neglected or nearly forgotten. Gradually, Tiffany glass came to be recognized for its exceptional design and brilliant decoration.When the Tiffany glass belonging to the restaurant Maxwell's Plum was offered for sale in early 1989, the prices realized were considered astronomical. Time has shown that this was not an aberration. Indeed, by today's standards, these prices would be considered bargains.

Here then is a selection of some exquisite vases now being offered. It's impossible to predict how rapidly prices will climb in the future, but one thing is sure: no more favrile glass is being made.

Sale 2503 
Works of Art from Tiffany Studios 

17 December 2011 
New York, Rockefeller Plaza 

TIFFANY STUDIOS A Red 'Tel-el-Amarna' Favrile Glass Vase, circa 1910
8 in. (20.3 cm.) high

engraved L.C. Tiffany - Favrile 5931E 

Lot 1


    $8,000 - $12,000
December 17, 2011 Price Realized: $ 18,750

Pre-Lot Text

Thomas F. Walker's ardor for Tiffany art glass is evident in the breadth and beauty of the collection he amassed over a period of twenty years. The stunning examples of vases and lamps illustrate the widely varying forms and types of glass produced by Tiffany Studios. Among the exquisite examples offered, the gourd form vase with its subtle golds and light purples swirled with oranges and greens and the early Agate vase with purple and green striations speak to Dr. Walker's sophisticated and diligent eye. Similarly the 'Snowball' leaded glass and bronze table lamp has complex gradations in color and luminosity, achieved by a particularly well selected array of Tiffany Studios glass.
Thomas Walker dedicated much of his life to helping others. An anesthesiologist by profession and a Captain in the United States Air Force, Dr. Walker was also deeply committed to 'Paul's Pantry,' his local Green Bay food pantry, and 'Smile Train,' an organization in the Philippines that helps children born with cleft palates to get the surgery they need. Among other charities he supported were 'Sisters of Notre Dame,' a home for retired nuns, and the Medical College of Wisconsin to help medical students with debt relief. Seeing the beautiful pieces of art glass that he collected over the years is a wonderful parallel to the beautiful life he led helping others. The majority of the sale proceeds from this collection will be given to charity.

A Decorated 'Cypriote' Favrile Glass Vase, circa 1920 

4¼ in. (10.8 cm.) high 

engraved L.C. Tiffany - Favrile 3547P 

Lot 40


    $5,000 - $7,000
December 17, 2011 Price Realized: $ 7,500

A 'Jack-in-the-Pulpit' Favrile Glass Vase, circa 1905 
17 in. (43.2 cm.) high 

engraved L.C.T. Y4164 
Lot 44


    $15,000 - $20,000
December 17, 2011 Price Realized:  $ 15,000

A Decorated 'Cypriote' Favrile Glass Vase, circa 1900 

6 in. (15.2 cm.) high 

engraved L.C.T. N2815 
Lot 54


    $12,000 - $15,000
December 17, 2011 Price Realized:  $17,500 

A 'Gladiola' Favrile Glass Paperweight Vase, circa 1920 
14 3/8 in. (36.6 cm.) high 
engraved L.C. Tiffany - Inc. Favrile 6401N 
Lot 85


    $20,000 - $30,000
December 17, 2011 Price Realized:  $62,500 

A Blue 'Tel-el-Amarna' Favrile Glass Vase, circa 1910 

15¾ in. (40 cm.) high 

engraved Paris Salon L.C. Tiffany - Favrile 9140E and with original paper label 

Lot 105


    $30,000 - $50,000
December 17, 2011:  Unsold 

Note:  My most recent post about Tiffany art glass is here.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saul Steinberg Violin Solo and Liberty Duet

On December 15, Bonhams will be offering two original ink drawings by Saul Steinberg in its Fine Books and Manuscripts sale. The first is a female violinist drawn on music paper. The second is a pair of women reportedly similar to "Three Liberties."

Sale 19427 - Fine Books and Manuscripts, 15 Dec 2011 
New York

The first drawing:
Lot No: 5151
STEINBERG, SAUL. 1914-1999.
Original gouache and ink on large sheet of musical score, 500 x 330 mm, of a corpulent Baroque violinist, signed lower right, laid down, matted and framed.
Estimate: US$5,000 - 7,000
December 15, 2011:  Sold for US$7,500 inclusive of Buyer's Premium

On a similar note:

Saul Steinberg (AMERICAN, 1914-1999)
A violin player 
signed 'Steinberg' (lower right)
ink on a lined music sheet
19½ x 13 in. (49.6 x 33 cm.)

Price Realized 

    Price includes buyer's premium
    Estimate$2,000 - $3,000
    Sale Information

The second drawing:
Lot No: 5152
STEINBERG, SAUL. 1914-1999.
Original ink and traces of color on paper, 360 x 280 mm, of 2 women similar to his "Three Liberties" but wearing curiously anachronistic punkish pants, signed and dated at lower right ("Steinberg 1951"), colors faded, matted and framed.

Estimate: US$5,000 - 7,000 
December 15, 2011:  Sold for US$6,875 inclusive of Buyer's Premium

For the record, here are Steinberg's "Three Liberties" (1949-1951). I don't find the resemblance between the drawings all that compelling. I do find it intriguing that he spent three years working on the drawing, which shows three female subway riders in a pose glibly suggestive of the Statue of Liberty.

March 31, 2014 Update: The untitled work with two standing female figures is currently listed with Adam Baumgold Gallery.

Note: Need more? My previous Steinberg post is here.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Maurice Sendak: Mother Goose, Max, and Moose

Bonhams has a very nice selection of Maurice Sendak works coming up in its December 15 Fine Books and Manuscripts auction in New York. There is a printed serigraph, an early autograph letter with an original illustration, and, of course, pencil drawings including Max, a few Wild Things, assorted rabbits, and--the wait is over!-- moose.

Bonhams Sale 19427 - Fine Books and Manuscripts, 15 Dec 2011
New York

Lot No: 5140

Mother Goose Collection. New York: Serigrafia, 1990.

Suite of 6 color serigraphs on Rives BFK, approximately 560 x 725 mm each, individually signed and numbered by the artists. Original cloth-backed clam-shell portfolio with printed contents and colophon on the inside lid.

Provenance: Maurice Sendak.

LIMITED EDITION, no 107 of 300 copies issued to benefit the Children's Health Fund. Comprising: "Mother Goose" (M. Sendak); "Around the Green Gravel" (C. Van Allsberg); "The Queen of Hearts" (B. Moser); "The Kilkenny Cats" (Seymour Chwast); "Cat and the Fiddle" (Daniel Pelavin); and "Children on the Ice" (Guy Billout).

Estimate: US$2,000 - 3,000

December 15, 2011:  Unsold

Lot No: 5141

Pen and watercolor illustration on an Autograph Letter Signed ("M. Sendak"), November 18, 1962, to Lyn, being a self-portrait of Sendak with his dog, fold creases, light edgewear.
 Sendak writes this charming letter to a friend and draws "a picture of (himself) after reading (Lyn's) letter," in the likeness of his character Pierre, accompanied by his dog Jennie. Sendak mentions the drawing in his postscript: "Tho I look 6 1/2 I am really 34!"

Estimate: US$700 - 900
December 15, 2011:  Sold for US$4,000 inclusive of Buyer's Premium

Lot No: 5142
"Six and Seven," pencil drawing, 217 x 280 mm, signed lower right, preliminary sketches for the Seven Little Monsters television series, matted and framed.

In the 2000-2003 animated television series Seven Little Monsters, Six is the resident ballerina who wears a tutu and carries a wand while Seven is the youngest and the tallest of the group. The final version of Six was much younger and more feminine than this version.

November 24, 2011 Update:  "Six and Seven" is being offered again at Bonhams New York in its December 4 Fine Books, Maps & Manuscripts sale. The estimate has been reduced to $1,500 - 2,000.

 Lot No: 5143
"Moose," pencil drawing, 217 x 280 mm, signed at lower right and additionally inscribed at upper right: "Moose--May 1, 2000 / M.S. / 1 + 2"," matted and framed.
Estimate: US$2,000 - 3,000
December 15, 2011:  Unsold

 Lot No: 5144
"Tzippy," pencil sketch on vellum tracing paper, 190 x 150 mm, signed lower right.

A Wild Thing engaged in rumpus. Sendak named the Wild Things after his uncles and aunts: Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile and Bernard.

Estimate: US$2,000 - 3,000 

December 15, 2011:  Unsold

Lot No: 5145
Pencil sketch of two rabbits on vellum tracing paper, 100 x 280 mm, signed lower left, upper and left margins trimmed unevenly, sketch on verso of sheet, signature on recto.
Possibly relates to the little-known Sendak title, Ten Little Rabbits.

Estimate: US$1,500 - 2,000 
December 15, 2011:  Unsold

 Lot No: 5146
Max and three Wild Things, pencil sketch on vellum tracing paper, 245 x 180 mm, signed lower right, right margin trimmed unevenly.
The sketches are executed on the verso and the signature is on the recto of this leaf. A desirable sketch of Sendak's most famous creations in motion, being Max, Moishe, Tzippy and Bernard.

Estimate: US$3,000 - 5,000 
December 15, 2011:  Unsold

Lot No: 5147
Max in his wolf suit, pencil sketch on vellum tracing paper, 215 x 165 mm, signed lower right, left margin trimmed unevenly.
Charming sketch of Max making mischief "of one kind or another."

Estimate: US$2,000 - 3,000 

December 15, 2011:  Unsold

Maurice Sendak, Letter (Detail)

Maurice Sendak, "Six and Seven"

Maurice Sendak, Max in his Wolf Suit

Note:  My most recent post on the Wild Thing parade balloon art of Maurice Sendak is here.