Rare pin-up art from the greatest illustrators to ever pick up paint and brush will be the main draw when Heritage Auctions
launches its first Signature(r) Illustration Art Auction of 2011, Feb. 11-12, at its Beverly Hills offices, continuing the successful pairing of California sun and the gorgeous women of illustration that was begun last year, led by Alberto Vargas' Gold Carnation (Legacy Nude #9), one of the most important paintings from the great artist's peak period.
"Our last auction focused primarily on mainstream, Golden Age and Children's Literature illustrations," said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President of Heritage Auctions. "We wanted to use this auction to get back to big names in pin-ups because collectors want it and we happen to have a strong group of incredible images to offer."
While it has been the Estate of Charles Martignette that has provided a majority of heft to Heritage's Illustration Art category for the last 18 months - with still at least another year's worth of stellar material coming - the Collection of Craig Macmillan, a grouping discerningly amassed over the last two decades, has added a considerable amount of buzz in its own right.
"Collectors will do well to sit up and take serious notice of these offerings," said Todd Hignite, Consignment Director, "given that they represent some of the choicest examples by each given artist - virtually all the pin-up greats are included in this collection."
The collection is especially deep in the work of Alberto Vargas, including, as mentioned above, the show-stopping and exceedingly scarce Gold Carnation (Legacy Nude #9), the ninth in the series of 12 "Legacy Nudes" that Vargas painted for his wife Anna Mae at a low point in their lives after he was fired by Esquire and before he began his long association with Playboy. Vargas is reported to have considered this series his best work, and it is immediately obvious from the stunning quality of the overall body of the work that he put his heart and soul into every image. It is one of the only painted images by the great Vargas used on a Playboy cover and is estimated at $30,000+. Another rare and striking Vargas from Macmillan's collection is the beguiling Vargas Girl Pin-Up, Playboy, October 1968, which is expected to bring $20,000+.
Also in the auction from Macmillan is one of the greatest pin-ups ever created, and one of the most important Playboy covers ever, in the form of Haddon Sundblom's Naughty Santa, Playboy Cover, December 1972, estimated at $20,000.
"Sundblom was better known as the artist who defined the modern image of Santa Claus in Coca-Cola ads," said Hignite. "This image, however, shows his genius as a pin-up artist, though he did very few. In fact, this beauty was Sundblom's last assignment before his death in 1976, and his full mastery is on obvious display, including a humorous reference to his work for Coke."
As mentioned above, the Charles Martignette Estate continues to provide dozens of rare illustration offerings, and this auction is very deep in more of Martignette's "greatest hits," including a superb selection of major pin-ups from his favorite artist, Gil Elvgren, "the king of the pin-up," including Elvgren's I'm a Happy Medium (And Find Out How the Future Looks), 1947, estimated at $30,000+.
While the focus may be on pin-ups, pulp magazine and paperback cover art is very strongly represented in this auction, with the majority hailing from Martignette's blue-chip collection, including what may well be the single most iconic paperback cover ever painted D for Delinquent, paperback book cover, 1958, painted by an anonymous American artist, and used numerous times over the ensuing decades. It is estimated at $4,000+.
"Martignette has an amazing eye for the greatest in pulp and paperback art, and we're getting down to the nitty gritty of it now," said Jaster. "I can say in all honesty that when these masterworks are gone we may never see another such extraordinary group by the likes of Norman Saunders, Earle Bergey, Frank R. Paul, and Rudy Nappi offered again in a single auction."
After setting the world record for pulp art in August of 2010 with the $143,400 auction of H.J. Ward's The Evil Flame, Spicy Mystery Stories pulp cover, August 1936, Heritage follows up with another example of Ward's mastery, the superb and suggestive Spicy Adventure Stories, pulp cover, July 1935, estimated at $30,000+.
Heritage will also be offering up its largest auction section ever devoted to Animation Art, spotlighting the legendary genius Gustaf Tenggren, as well as some truly outstanding Disney Studio production cels from classic features including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, and Pinocchio, led by Tenngren's original 1937 promotional art for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, featuring all the major characters from the famous film, a benchmark piece of art, estimated at $70,000+.
One of the sparkling highlights of Heritage's fall 2010 Illustration Art Auction in New York City - and of any auction in recent memory - was the selection of art created by famed children's book illustrator Garth Williams, virtually all of the original work from Charlotte's Web, with stunning results. Heritage is following up that very successful offering in this auction with a special section devoted to Little House on the Prairie and Stuart Little, with the heart of the offerings being the original 1953 cover art from Little House on the Prairie, a defining image in Children's Literature, estimated at $8,000+.
Rounding out the offerings, and certainly not to be forgotten among the great pin-ups on offer, is a select group of classic American Illustration masterpieces, including the subtle and brilliant At the Close of Day by Maxfield Parrish (estimated at $200,000+), a museum quality painting that has been exhibited in several institutions over the years, and a selection of work from the great artists of the Saturday Evening Post, including Douglass Crockwell's Saturday Evening Post cover, April 4, 1942, a classic cover image from the peak period of The Post's popularity, estimated at $6,000+.