Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Visiting the Barn: Constantin Alajálov New Yorker Cover Art

Illustrations are created for a purpose, and that purpose is generally to be reproduced in print. Not knowing the publication history of an original illustration often means not understanding its context or perhaps even its importance. Charles Martignette was an important illustration collector and he must have known that this original illustration of his by Constantin Alajálov was used as a 1945 New Yorker cover. One wonders what sort of records he maintained and whether the auction house that sold off his estate had access to them. Heritage Auctions is an extremely reliable seller of illustration art, yet even they did not recognize the significance of this particular illustration. The lot description gave the art a reasonable title, Visiting the Barn, and noted the medium of gouache and watercolor on board. There was no publication history provided and the painting sold for only $625.

This may not be the most appealing of Alajálov's New Yorker covers, but it is still a published New Yorker cover and probably would have sold for considerably more if it had been properly identified as such. Yes, the assembly-line nature of the milking operation depicted here is somewhat sobering. And yes, Alajálov has a regrettable penchant for showing sophisticated women smoking cigarettes. Nevertheless, even back then it couldn't have been prudent for even a sophisticated woman to carry a lit cigarette into a wooden barn with hay all over the floor.

Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945

Constantin Alajálov, Framed original artwork, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945

Constantin Alajálov's signature

Constantin Alajálov, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945

Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The New Yorker, August 18, 1945

Note:  I have surveyed illustrator Constantin Alajálov's work for the New Yorker in a variety of blog posts which are located here. I suppose I can't keep this up for very much longer.

Some of my favorite posts feature original New Yorker cover art. You can see them all right here.

I'm always looking for fine examples of original New Yorker art, alternative versions, preliminary sketches, presentation drawings, etc. If you have access to the raw material of a future blog post, let me know. If not, don't worry. I don't think I'm going to run out anytime soon.


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