After the success of its comic strip sale in the spring*, Sothebys
will be selling one of the world's largest collection of strip cartoons, belonging to the Belgian lover of this genre, Jean-Arnold Schoofs, on 24th October.
From his first purchase in the early Eighties, the collector constantly sought out the masters of strip cartoon, picking up numerous treasures at their source. Sotheby's is now unveiling 132 lots with some 60 original plates by the greatest authors in the genre from both Europe and America, including Hergé, Foster, Franquin, Gottfredson, McCay, Jacobs and Peyo, retracing in this way the saga of the "Ninth Art".
My wish, until now, was to keep the older well-known major artists of the comics world, who for me will remain in the collective memory. These masters, who have become impossible to find, have always attracted me by their graphic qualities as well as by their historical dimension. Their work will remain. Today, I feel the need to return to the origins of my collection, to the great modern draughtsmen, and in particular Hermann Jean-Arnold Schoofs.
Jean-Arnold Schoofs was bitten by the strip cartoon bug in 1955, when his parents gave him Hergé's The Crab with the Golden Claws. This was the start of a passion that remained undimmed with the passing years. As a teenager, he loved contemporary authors like Hermann, Moebius, Loisel, Rosinski and Bilal. He bought his first plate in the early 1980s. An occasional bridge champion who worked in insurance during the week, he devoted his weekends to tracking down originals, criss-crossing Belgium, France and Switzerland to knock on artists' doors in person. As well as his special relationships with several authors, he also gained an undeniable advantage from his trips: he had first refusal of the finest plates, ahead of any other covetous fan. He thus built up a prodigious collection containing hundreds of original pages and first edition albums. Groaning with images that have now become legendary, the walls of his house bear witness to a lifetime's work: one of the biggest strip cartoon collections in the world.
The 60 plates in the sale are by cult strip cartoon artists, mainly pioneers in the art. The catalogue features American humourists of early 20th century, realist Americans of the Thirties and Forties, and European authors of the immediate post-war period. The only exceptions are a double-page spread by Hergé from between the wars, when the author was working alone, and a single page by Morris from the 1970s. Schoofs was one of the first collectors to take an equal interest in the European and American founding fathers, hunting down historical pieces across the Atlantic as well as the Franco-Belgian series he treasured.
While most of the names in the catalogue have now entered comic strip history, there are several authors now little-known to the general public, who made an important contribution to its development. For a demanding collector like Jean-Arnold Schoofs, who loved drawing and was a considerable connoisseur, the only consideration when buying a piece was the quality. As he says in the catalogue preface, "I'd personally prefer a really fine plate by Remacle to an indifferent one by Hergé." An uncompromising stance that accounts for the outstanding level of a collection now eagerly awaited by fans.
Published in Le Petit Vingtième in 1939, an exceptional double-page spread from Le Sceptre dOttokar by Hergé (estimate: 600,000-800,000 / $690,000-920,000) is the outstanding lot in the collection. Every skilfully-constructed, perfectly-composed panel vibrates with energy. We see Tintin's plane starting a vertiginous dive, whose dazzling speed is expressed through the lively strokes of a clean line. Hergé's consistent line, here seen to masterly effect, is counterbalanced by the pale, almost dreamlike blue of the watercolour.
In a more humorous vein, enthusiasts will revel in a page from the most popular Frenchlanguage series of all time, Astérix et Cléopatre (estimate: 200,000-250,000 / $230,000-287,000) with an uproariously funny Goscinny and an Albert Uderzo at the peak of his art, transcending the movement of his instantly-recognisable drawing style.
EDGAR P. JACOBS (1907-1983) BLAKE ET MORTIMER - LA MARQUE JAUNE Indian ink on paper Page 42 - Tintin no. 20 - 19 May 1954 45 x 34.2 cm (paper) - 40 x 30 cm (drawing) Estimate: 120,000-150,000 / $138,000-173,000
Taken from the legendary Marque Jaune, this chase between a taxi requisitioned by Mortimer and the car of the fiendish Guinea Pig is dazzling in terms of composition. The dramatic, emphatic power of Jacobs' drawing reaches a paroxysm in the final panels.
Again by E.P. Jacobs, this time pre-dating Blake et Mortimer, is a plate from Le Rayon U of 1944 (estimate: 50,000-60,000 / $57,500-69,000) executed in colour, which was highly unusual at the time. Some characters in the scene were to appear several years later, with different names, in the author's famous Blake et Mortimer series.
ANDRÉ FRANQUIN SPIROU ET FANTASIO, LES PIRATES DU SILENCE Indian ink on paper Page 24 - Spirou no. 938 - 12 April 1956 (Dupuis - 1958) 47.8 x 33.2 cm (paper) - 42 x 28.3 cm (drawing) Estimate: 200,000-250,000 / $230,000-287,000
In the rest of this scene from Les Pirates du silence, one of the great adventures of Spirou et Fantasio, the brilliant Franquin, assisted by Will in the backgrounds, gives free rein to his passion for design and cars. He introduces the Marsupilami into it, bringing his "family" together in a 1950s car.
JEAN GRATON MICHEL VAILLANT, LE PILOTE SANS VISAGE Indian ink on paper Page 30 - Tintin no. 15 - 16 April 1959 (Lombard - 1960) 51 x 36.2 cm (paper) - 45 x 34 cm (drawing) Estimate: 12,000-15,000 / $13,800-17,300
This plate is sure to thrill fans of Formula One and the Monaco circuit! Taken from Le Pilote sans visage, one of the legendary albums in the Michel Vaillant series, this is a concentrate of all the skills of Jean Graton, a marvellous depicter of racing cars. The virtuoso scene full of speed, breath-taking suspense and the vintage lines of period cars unfolds in a magnificent setting.
PEYO JOHAN ET PIRLOUIT, LANNEAU DES CASTELLAC Indian ink on paper Page 30 - Spirou no. 1181 - 1 December 1960 (Dupuis - 1962) 43.5 x 32 cm (paper) 39.2 x 28 cm (drawing) Estimate: 80,000-100,000 / $92,000-115,000
All the art of Peyo, that unrivalled storyteller, can be seen in this page: his humour, keen sense of narrative, and precise drawing. Each character is brilliantly depicted, giving an acute attention to detail.
WINSOR MC CAY LITTLE NEMO Indian ink on paper (Sunday Page - 9 January 1910) 72.5 x 57.3 cm (paper) 70.6 x 55.6 cm (drawing) Estimate: 40,000-50,000 / $46,000-57,500
Here we find the style of Winsor McCay, imbued with his inimitable grace. As with Hergé, the extraordinarily elegant graphic line entrances the eye. McCay created a timeless, visionary, dreamlike body of work for readers of all ages. A master of rhythm as well as drawing, he mingled small square images with large vertical panels.
ALEX RAYMOND FLASH GORDON Indian ink on paper (Sunday Page - 28 April 1935) 76.2 x 51.1 cm (paper) 74.6 x 48.7 (drawing) Estimate: 45,000-55,000 / $52,000-63,500
In this magnificent page from Flash Gordon, Alex Raymond's intense inking is totally in harmony with his energetic pencil. The crosshatching highlights the overall lines of force, creating a singular atmosphere. This dates from 1935, during Flash Gordon's most thriving period when it was published in large format on a full page of the newspaper.
FLOYD GOTTFREDSON MICKEY MOUSE Indian ink on paper (Daily - 25 November 1936) 19.5 x 73.7 cm (paper) - 14 x 63.5 cm (drawing) Estimate: 8,000-10,000 / $9,200-11,500
This 1936 ink drawing by Floyd Gottfredson, the main draughtsman for the series, brilliantly shows the expressiveness of the characters while remaining refined. The protagonists' positioning in the panels is particularly dynamic.
HAROLD FOSTER PRINCE VALIANT Indian ink on paper (Sunday Page 1 February 1948) 87.7 x 66.5 cm (paper) 85.8 x 61.5 cm (drawing) Estimate: 15,000-20,000 / $17,300-23,000
This plate stands out for its remarkable size, with the protagonists fully occupying the space. As ever, Harold Foster's composition is beautifully put together. The exceptionally fine inking imbues the characters with arresting vitality, bringing them to life before our eyes.
WILL TIF ET TONDU, MONSIEUR CHOC Volume sculpture, resin, 204 cm Edition of one, with certificate signed by Will 1996 Estimate: 12,000-15,000 / $13,800-17,300
The sale starts with several figurines, including this monumental sculpture. This is a unique copy, for which Will himself drafted and signed the certificate: "Monsieur Choc" in three dimensions, by Eric Bourgeois. The legendary character invented by Rosy and drawn by Will in the Tif & Tondu series was first produced as a small statue by the Brussels sculptor in an edition of 55. Two metres of know-how lie between the character's feet and his legendary helmet.
*The sale on 7 March 2015 made a total of 3.9 million, with 85% of lots sold by value, and 24 records