Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Peter Arno: "He can't remember his name..."

In early 2009, Bonhams sold this small preliminary drawing by Peter Arno. Police are booking a drunken man who has lost his memory but not his arrogance. The final, published version of the drawing from The New Yorker is also shown below. It's composition is quite similar to the preliminary version, but Arno has zoomed in on the three main characters bringing them closer together and heightening the tension.

Peter Arno, "He can't remember his name, Sergeant.  All he remembers is he's somebody pretty damned important." Preliminary artwork, The New Yorker, June 6, 1942, Page 14

Sale 16937 - Fine Books and Manuscripts, 15 Feb 2009 

San Francisco 

Lot No: 1049

ARNO, PETER. 1904-1968.
Pen and ink and wash on thick paper, 14 x 13 inches, signed ("Peter Arno"), 1942, with caption pasted below illustration, depicting a well-dressed man a police officer before a police sergeant, image toned, else fine.

Arno was an illustrator for the New Yorker from 1925 to his death in 1968. This image is copyrighted for that magazine and likely appeared in print in 1942. The caption reads: "He can't remember his name, Sergeant. All he remembers is he's somebody pretty [damned] important."
See illustration.

Sold for $1,464 inclusive of Buyer's Premium

The published version:
Peter Arno, "He can't remember his name, Sergeant.  All he
remembers is he's somebody pretty damned important."
The New Yorker,
June 6, 1942, page 14

Image replaced April 19, 2014

Note:  Peter Arno was quite prolific, yet not all that many of his preliminary drawings are known to us. If you have access to original Arno rough artwork, please be a dear reader and provide me with a good scan here at Blog Central. I'd love to see what you've got. And, quite possibly, so would the world.   

Incidentally, my 200th blog post, "A Shaggy Dog Story," also concerned Peter Arno and my own changing appreciation of the fine arts over time. It can be enjoyed here--when you're sober, of course.


Monday, January 30, 2012

A Pair of Seusses

Here are two souvenir drawings by Dr. Seuss, one of a man in a green suit and top hat smoking a cigar, and the other of a Seuss creature somewhat like a dog. The first is dedicated to Adelaide Robb. The pair were sold on the old internet site sothebys.com for $1,625 circa 2002.

To Adelaide Robb from Dr. Seuss

To Adelaide Robb from Dr. Seuss
To Adelaide Robb from Dr. Seuss

To Adelaide Robb from Dr. Seuss

Note:  My last Grinchy post on Dr. Seuss is here.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Algonquin Cat

Hilary Knight is best known for illustrating the Eloise books but he has illuminated dozens of other books as well. In one of these, Algonquin Cat, Val Schaffner tells the story of Hamlet, the cat residing in New York's celebrated Algonquin Hotel. In 2011, Sotheby's auctioned off preliminary cover artwork by Mr. Knight, giving it a reasonable estimate of $1,500-2,000.  It sold for $7,500, not too shabby for a preliminary design.

Hilary Knight, Algonquin Cat, preliminary drawing

Hilary Knight, Algonquin Cat, preliminary drawing, with mat and frame

Hilary Knight, Algonquin Cat, 1980. The published version.
Hilary Knight, Algonquin Cat, preliminary drawing

Note:  My previous post on Hilary Knight is here.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Caricature of Phyllis Diller by Ronald Searle

Two weeks ago I discussed an eBay sale of original TV Guide magazine cover art, caricatures
by the late, great Ronald Searle of "All in the Family" cast members Carroll O'Connor and
Jean Stapleton. The original artwork, probably the first to be offered anywhere since the artist's
death on December 30, sold with the Buy It Now feature within 24 hours of its listing.

Now the same seller is offering another scarce piece of original Searle artwork, a caricature of
comedienne Phyllis Diller also commissioned, we are told, by TV Guide.  The artwork, which
was not used as a magazine cover, dates circa 1972 according to the seller, the same year as
the "All in the Family" cover. I do not know in what issue it was published or, indeed, if it ever
actually saw print, but I do know that TV Guide's Fall Preview issue of September 14-20, 1968
had an article on Phyllis Diller. This 1968 issue then certainly could have featured this
illustration, particularly as this piece clearly bears an earlier Searle signature than the 1972
"All in the Family" cover art. I would welcome any information any reader might have as to its
publication history. Until I know more, I'm going to tentatively date this artwork to 1968. I've
included in this post a photograph of the actress from approximately this date as well. For
 whatever it's worth, I don't think this caricature is as successful as the "All in the Family"

Lightning did not strike twice, and this artwork did not sell within the first 24 hours of its 30-day
listing on eBay. The Buy It Now price is again $4,500. There is no Make Offer option.
Shipping is $100.

Ronald Searle Phyllis Diller, c. 1968 for TV Guide

Phyllis Diller, c. 1968

January 30, 2012 Update:  The seller has updated the listing to reflect a probable date for this drawing of approximately 1968 rather than 1972, noting that 1968 witnessed the premier of "The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show." Specifically, the seller now states, "Most likely this piece was created to promote 'The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show' ca 1968, but was unused."

February 1, 2012:  This auction listing now has a Make Offer option, which means the seller will consider offers of less than $4,500. Matt  Jones has revealed here that the seller will accept an offer of $4,000, so if you've been sitting on the fence about this one, take note.

February 3, 2012:  The Buy It Now price has been reduced to $3,500 and the Make Offer option withdrawn.

February 8, 2012:  The Buy It Now price was reduced again to $3,000. The seller is clearly looking to move this piece.

February 12, 2012:  The Buy It Now price has been lowered to $2,500.

February 23, 2012:  The listing was ended by the seller on February 20 because the item was no longer available. This cryptic statement can mean almost anything, from that the item found a buyer outside of eBay to that the seller no longer wishes to sell.

The final eBay item description

March 16, 2012 Update:  The drawing has been relisted on eBay by the same seller for a the same Buy It Now price of $2,500 plus $100 shipping.

August 20, 2012 Update:  Phyllis Diller passed away today at the age of 95.


Friday, January 27, 2012

For International Holocaust Remembrance Day

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated annually on January 27, which marks the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. Yom HaShoah, on the other hand, is commemorated on the 27th of Nisan, this year falling on April 19.

Christina Malman's powerful black-and-white cover for The New Yorker is perhaps the last thing one would expect to see on a mainstream magazine cover dating from 1940.

Christina Malman, The New Yorker, July 27, 1940


Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Shostakovich Autograph Musical Quotation, Signed

I have commented before here that a drawing by an artist is more desirable than a simple autograph, while a writer's thoughtful inscription is more meaningful than a plain signature. In the case of composers, one of the great collectibles is the autograph musical quotation, signed.

I understand how artists draw and how writers write much better than I understand how composers compose. While I could sit at a piano and compose an unadorned theme in C major with mostly quarter notes and eighth notes, I can't conceive of composing a syncopated, polyphonic score such as the one below. Dmitri Shostakovich is one of my favorite composers and his Fifth Symphony is perhaps his most popular work. Can composers just write out their music like this from memory? Probably quite easily, but it's beyond me.

The score:
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 Score
The auction listing from Swann Galleries:

Sale 1965 Lot 253
SHOSTAKOVICH, DIMITRI. Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, the opening two bars from his Fifth Symphony, one system written in piano score with both treble and bass lines, Signed and dated below the quotation, written in blue ink. 1 page, 31/2x51/2 inch sheet of pink paper apparently removed from an autograph album. Leningrad, 1 April 1938
Estimate $1,200-1,800
Sold for $3,910

 Apr 03 2003 10:30 

Valery Gergiev conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra:

Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wild Things are Happening

As Sotheby's points out in the lot description, the 1998 Bell Atlantic "Wild Things are Happening" advertising campaign was the first instance in which Maurice Sendak permitted his Wild Thing characters to be used in commercial advertising. Based on what I know of Mr. Sendak, I'm sure the reason for this is his strong belief in the campaign's messages. In the case of this drawing, the message is clearly internet safety. According to the listing, the title was, "Before you jump on-line, look to see who's holding the net." There is no net in the illustration, but a pun on the internet is there for the asking.

Mr. Sendak, of course, donates all of his original book illustrations to the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia, but he sells his advertising artwork in the marketplace. Advertising campaigns such as this one have become the primary means for collectors to get their hands on Wild Things artwork.

Maurice Sendak, Wild Things are Happening

Note:  My last post on Maurice Sendak is here and it is a model of internet safety.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Chagall Souvenir

There's nothing like a good art book, but for me it's even better when the book has an original drawing by the artist. If it's a full page drawing in color, so much the better!

Bibliophiles get excited it when sumptuous art books are enhanced with beautiful souvenir drawings like this one by Marc Chagall, one of the towering figures of 20th century modernism. This book will be offered for sale at Christie's South Kensington on February 10.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985) 
Peintre sous un arbre
dated '1979' (lower left) and signed and dedicated 'Pour Ingrid et Alfred en bon souvenir Chagall' (on the opposite page)
wax crayon, pen and brush and India ink on paper
11¾ x 11 in. (30 x 27.8 cm.)
Executed in 1979; this work is executed on the frontispiece of the book Marc Chagall, De Draeger, Paris, 1979.

    £9,000 - £12,000
  • ($13,977 - $18,636)
February 10, 2012:  Price Realized 

  • ($19,725)
  • Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.

    Sale Information
Special Notice
Artist's Resale Right ("droit de Suite"). If the Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer also agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


Neuman Collection, Saint Paul de Vence, a gift from the artist.
Leo Baeck College, London, by bequest from the above.
Anonymous sale, Montefiore, Tel Aviv, 8 July 2010, lot 247.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner???? 

Lot Notes

The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work. 

Note:  My previous post on Marc Chagall is here. It features a gorgeous painting with the Eiffel Tower that was owned by Alice Teriade.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Steinberg's Side of the Tracks

In September, Sotheby's sold this 1952 drawing by Saul Steinberg of  a railway station that appeared in his book The Passport (1954). The book is inspired by many of the official documents Steinberg required for his long journey from war-torn Romania to the U.S. The drawing sold for $13,750 including buyer's premium, within its estimate. Steinberg, who received some architectural training, made fascinating drawings of all sorts of public buildings throughout his career, rendering them as fanciful yet recognizable.

Saul Steinberg, Railway, 1952


March 31, 2014 Update:  This work is currently offered by Adam Baumgold Gallery.


Note:  My previous post on Saul Steinberg can be found here.  It shows some of Steinberg's figurative work.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Big Barcodes

Here are a couple of strikingly similar magazine covers which both make reference to the Universal Product Code, or UPC. This barcode is now commonly used to scan trade products at checkout counters in grocery stores but there was a time when it was new and when it was resented.

Mad Magazine took up the gauntlet first, in it's April 1978 issue when the UPC label was first being introduced to magazine covers. A magazine might be expected to resent the UPC's infringement on its valuable cover space, the area the magazine uses to project its image and sell itself to newsstand customers. Mad showed its Luddite streak, reproducing a grotesquely-enlarged version of the UPC label and expressing the hope that "this issue jams every computer in the country." Mad's defiance might have had more bite if they had actually omitted the smaller, real UPC code.

A decade later, The New Yorker ran James Stevenson's cover, which uses an enlarged UPC image as a strong graphic element that overwhelms the small and oblivious supermarket shoppers. The New Yorker may safely assume that it doesn't share too many readers with Mad, but over a decade certainly some readers may migrate. Stevenson's use of the enlarged UPC label specifically pertains to grocery items and not to magazines. Note that The New Yorker's cover doesn't carry the real UPC label. The magazine's circulation is mostly by subscription, and these mailed issues do not carry the UPC barcode that copies of the magazine are required to have in stores.

Mad Magazine, No. 198, April 1978

James Stevenson, The New Yorker, November 14, 1988

Note:  James Stevenson's poster appears in my New York is Book Country post here. Stop by and find out what's lurking in the sewers of Book Country.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Open Your Hands Wide, Embrace Happiness!

I wouldn't call myself a fan of anime, but I do like Takashi Murakami's smiling flowers which seem vaguely reminiscent of Japanese cartoons. They do puzzle me a little bit, though. That title, "Open Your Hands Wide, Embrace Happiness!" sounds like a 1970's self-help book. These flowers have their origins in drawings Murakami made for prep school students learning how to draw flowers. I find myself searching warily for signs of irony, but I don't see any, just endlessly-repeated smiling flowers! Are they exultant, or are they mocking?

Sotheby's is selling this artwork in London on February 15. Their auction listing includes two figures with flowers, one traditional (by Ogata Korin) and one contemporary (by Jeff Koons), that have some bearing on the flowers that are such an essential part of Murakami's work. I personally think this work is better compared with the singing flowers in Walt Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" (1951).
Takashi Murakami
Open Your Hands Wide, Embrace Happiness!

February 15, 2012:  Sold for $825,250 including buyer's premium.

Figure 1, Ogata Korin, Irises, c. 1700, Nezu Museum, Japan

Figure 2, Jeff Koons, Large Vase of Flowers, 1991

The Garden of Live Flowers from Walt Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" (1951)

Sir John Tenniel, "Alice in the Garden of Live Flowers," from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871.

Note:  Sir John Tenniel was last mentioned in my blog post on A Mad Tea Party, for some reason one of my most popular posts ever. I show how five different illustrators have handled Lewis Carroll's "A Mad Tea Party." Catch it here.

Has it really been four weeks since my last Disney post? What was I thinking? If you missed it, you can read it  here.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Giulio Romano's Head of a Mother and Child

This fragment of a Renaissance cartoon featuring a Mother and Child from the tapestry The Massacre of the Innocents was executed in Raphael's Studio after the death of the master at the age of 37. It was Giulio Romano who most likely oversaw the studio's work on this cartoon. This preliminary study for a tapestry was later cut up, and individual fragments of the cartoon like this one became dispersed.

Studio of Raphael, Head of a Mother and Child

January 25, 2012:  Unsold

Studio of Raphael, Head of a Mother and Child