Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Charles Addams Tearjerker

Original drawings by Charles Addams come to the market fairly commonly, although the classic pieces related to the Addams Family seem to be well-ensconced in public and private collections. Heritage Auctions is offering a real find, a classic Charles Addams cartoon certain to be familiar to all his fans.  This is the most iconic Addams drawing I can recall being offered for sale anywhere.

The drawing has no caption. It depicts a theatre full of distraught moviegoers viewing the onscreen proceedings with tears and dread. But there is one notable exception.

The label on the back from Associated American Artists galleries names this piece Giggler in Movie, which seems to completely miss the point of Uncle Fester's perverse fascination with the morose storyline. Fester isn't merely giggling, he's exulting in the tragedy unfolding on screen. 

It looks as if the artwork once sold for $750, but I've no idea when. Anyway, there's no chance of that happening again. 

CHARLES SAMUEL ADDAMS (American, 1912-1988)
Sad Movie, 
New Yorker cartoon, March 23, 1946
Watercolor and ink with white wash on board
8.25 x 9.25 in.
Signed lower right

This beautiful watercolor represents one of the most memorable Addams Family originals to ever come onto the market. Addams' classic period of the 1940s saw the first appearance of many of his most famous cartoons featuring his hugely popular cast of characters, including Uncle Fester, the star of this uncaptioned gem. This iconically definitive example of the master's mordant wit has been reprinted numerous times, notably in Addams' second book collection, Addams and Evil (Simon and Schuster, 1947) and recently as the cover for Iain Topliss' The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams and Saul Steinberg (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005). As author Topliss describes it: "Addams insisted that the captionless cartoon was the highest example of the comic art genre, and this is a brilliantly composed and maliciously conceived example" This masterpiece is the most important example by Addams we've ever offered and of the greatest, most historic images he ever created. Estimate: $12, 000 - $18,000
March 1, 2012 sale result

Addams, Charles Samuel:. American cartoonist, 1912-1988
Condition Report*:
Slight staining to white background; minor crease to lower left corner; tape residue on top edge; accretion on lower right corner; image in very good condition. Overall size of 12.25 x 14.75 inches.

Charles Addams, The New Yorker, March 23, 1946, page 31

Charles Addams, The New Yorker, March 23, 1946, page 31

March 14, 2012 Update:  The following auction wrap-up is exerpted from Artfix Daily's March 7 Artwire: 
A world record price was established for an original Charles Addams New Yorker Magazine cartoon as his Sad Movie, New Yorker magazine cartoon illustration, March 23, 1946 – one of the most famous of all Addams Family cartoons, soared amongst spirited bidding to the final price realized of $40,625, demolishing its pre-auction estimate of $12,000+ as well as the previous record of $16,100 for his art at auction.
“This beautiful watercolor is one of the most memorable Addams Family originals to ever come onto the market,” said Todd Hignite, Vice President at Heritage Auctions. “The uncaptioned image of Uncle Fester gleefully taking in a sad movie as the audience around him is reduced to tears is truly the definitive example of the master's mordant wit has been reprinted numerous times.”

Note:  My last post about Charles Addams is here.


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