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'Charlotte's Web' Cover Art Fetches $155K at Heritage Auctions in New York City
The original 1952 cover art by Garth Williams for the beloved children's book, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. AP Photo/Heritage Auctions.

NEW YORK (AP).- The original 1952 cover art for "Charlotte's Web" has sold at auction in New York City for more than $155,000.

Heritage Auctions says the artwork drawn by Garth Williams fetched more than five times its estimated sale price on Friday and is a record for any of Williams' art.

Heritage spokesman Barry Sandoval says the buyer is a New York collector who wishes to remain anonymous.

He says 42 of the late artist's original illustrations for the celebrated children's book were auctioned by his family and brought in more than $780,000. The total included the buyer's premium of 19.5 percent for all winning bids.

E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" is about a friendship between Charlotte the spider and a pig named Wilbur who is saved from slaughter.

Few children’s books have had as much of an impact on pop culture as much as E.B. White’s 1952 book Charlotte’s Web, featuring Williams’ sublime drawings of Wilbur the pig, Fern, the young girl who loves him and one very clever spider named Charlotte who saves him from slaughter.

“There are few people born after 1950, maybe even 1940, who are not intimately familiar with E.B. White’s timeless story,” said Barry Sandoval of Heritage Auctions, “or with these amazing illustrations. The same cover image has been used for 58 years, and this may be the most-printed cover illustration of any book by an American author.”

The Williams estate has made the art available to collectors for the first time. It was carefully preserved by the family in a bank vault since the artist's death.

“When Garth started doing books in the 1940s, once he completed an illustration, those illustrations were forwarded to the publisher, used, and then returned to Garth,” says Williams’ friend and attorney Richard M. Ticktin, a spokesperson for the family.

Susan Katz, , President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, who occupies the position once held by Ursula Nordstrom, the Harper & Row publisher who first brought White and Williams together for Stuart Little, added some historical perspective to the upcoming auction, and the place Williams’ artworks occupy in the realm of children’s illustrations.

“Garth Williams was one of the leading artists over the course of his 45-year career as children’s book illustrator,” said Katz. “His art graced the pages of more than 50 picture books and novels, bringing to life quintessential characters of children’s literature. Amongst his most cherished and memorable works is his depiction of Fern, Wilbur, and Charlotte on the iconic cover of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. These classic images, depicting true friendship and loyalty, have captured the imaginations of generations of young readers, and this auction will be an important moment for art collectors and those who treasure the memories Williams’ drawings have created.”

Williams was born in New York to a family of artists; his father was a cartoonist and his mother a painter. He studied at Westminster School of Art in London before landing an assignment to illustrate White’s first children’s story, Stuart Little. The 1945 tale about a shy mouse born to human parents touches on themes of leaving home for the first time, growing up and discovering oneself.

Seven years later, White and Williams teamed up again for Charlotte’s Web, which has become a staple of elementary school reading lists.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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