Swann to offer illustration art featuring highlights from the Collection of Jules Feiffer

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Swann to offer illustration art featuring highlights from the Collection of Jules Feiffer
George Fort Gibbs, “Bell telephone gives instant alarms,” painting for Bell Telephone Company postcard, circa 1898. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.

NEW YORK, NY.- The spring 2024 Illustration Art sale at Swann Galleries will take place on Thursday, June 20. The auction showcases an exceptional selection of original artworks spanning various media, including magazines, books, cartoons, postcards, posters, costume and scenic design, and animation. The sale also features a section dedicated to highlights from the collection of American cartoonist and author Jules Feiffer.

Works of note from the collection of Jules Feiffer include a special selection of original works by notable comic and graphic novel artists, including Will Eisner with “The manly art of self defense,” 1940section cover art for The Spirit ($40,000-50,000), as well as two full page comic illustrations for The Spirit by Eisner ($2,500-3,500, apiece). Frank Miller is featured with “The Bling Leading the Blind,” 1979, a comic book page illustration from the Spectacular Spider-Man. The issue marks the first time the prolific Daredevil writer and artist worked with the character ($4,000-6,000).

Cartoons and comic art dominate the sale, featuring works from influential but lesser-known artists like Julian Allen, Clare Bretécher, and Steve Brodner, alongside legends such as Winsor McCay, Ward Kimball, and Chuck Jones. Among the highlights is a 1936 cartoon by Alexander Calder, which integrates a sense of animation and a linear drawing style, elements typical of his sculptures ($5,000-8,000). The featured cartoon showcases Calder’s characteristic humor and insightful commentary on the challenges faced by artists. The work depicts a conversation between two artists: “My time is evenly divided. I spend half my time looking for work, and the other half trying to collect for it.” “When do you have time to paint?” “In my spare time.”

The theatre and performing arts are represented by caricatures, drawings, costume design, set design, and record album cover art by artists such as Sam Norkin, Max Beerbohm, Walter Plunkett, Robert Weaver, George Wachsteter, Freddy Wittop, and more. Winsor McCay’s “The Last Day of Manhattan,” published in The New York Herald ($10,000-15,000) stands out alongside “Fire backdrop” design by Jo Mielziner, one of the most influential scenic designers in American theater history. Created for the 1952 Broadway production of Wish You Were Here, the design includes an inscription to producer Leland Hayward and director Joshua Logan, as well as Mielziner’s design notes in the margins ($2,500-3,500).

Up for auction is the iconic record album cover illustration for Year of the Cat (Al Stewart, RCA Records/UK, 1976) by Colin Elgie ($2,500-3,000). Created in 1976, Elgie’s artwork is celebrated for its imaginative depiction of a woman surrounded by cat-themed items, perfectly capturing the essence of what many consider Al Stewart’s masterpiece album. The concept was so enduringly popular that it was revisited for the cover of Stewart’s 2004 Greatest Hits album, where most of the cat items were replaced with references to his other songs.

Book illustration is represented in this sale by work from renowned artists such as Jamie Wyeth, Mead Schaeffer, Kay Nielsen, and Tom Feelings. Mark Tansey is on offer with a rare example of his work as an illustrator. In “Waiting in Line to Look,” 1981, Tansey departs from his large-format oil paintings to create a scaled-down book illustration in pen and ink. Tansey incorporates themes from his fine art painting, including historical imagery, playing with perspective and scale, and referencing the history of narrative art ($20,000-30,000).

In addition to magazine illustrations by a distinguished roster of artists such as Pruett Carter, Miguel Covarrubias, William Koerner, Sue Coe, and Haddon Sundblom, the sale prominently features three works by Italian artist Domenico Gnoli ($8,000-12,000, apiece). Likely published in Holiday magazine, these illustrations of landmarks in Warsaw, Poland, showcase Gnoli’s distinctive hyper-detailed style. His work captivates and provokes thought, urging viewers to delve deeper into the scene. Tragically, Gnoli’s life was cut short when he died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 36. Despite his brief career, he achieved significant recognition in the art world.

The sale features advertising art that encapsulates the commercial culture of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including a notable illustration by George Gibbs, “Bell telephone gives instant alarms,” circa 1898 ($30,000-50,000). Reproduced as a postcard and distributed to over 300 million households, the postcard launched a major campaign by Bell Telephone Company to introduce the candlestick telephone, emphasizing its capability to provide instant alarms. This postcard is renowned among telephony enthusiasts and has become a widely collected item across America.

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