Published: February 19, 2008
Charles G. Martignette Jr, formerly of Somerville, Mass., died of apparent heart failure on Sunday, February 3. Mr Martignette, 57, lived in Florida for the last 35 years and was recognized as a world renowned art collector, dealer and historian.
An acknowledged authority in the field of American illustration art and internationally recognized as an author, dealer, appraiser and collector of original artwork by America’s great Twentieth Century illustrators and artists, Mr Martignette’s collection numbered more than 10,000 works, the largest in the world.
He co-authored The Great American Pin-up, which, with 900 illustrations, was considered to be the bible of this genre. He also wrote The Complete Works of Gil Elvgren, the leading exponent of pin-up art, as well as several other books on the subject. He is credited with searching out, acquiring and preserving the life’s work of numerous great illustrators, including Dean Cornwell.
Walt Reed, founder of the Illustration House, a New York City-based gallery devoted to the art and history of illustration, became acquainted with Mr Martignette in the 1970s and mentored the young collector in a nascent interest that became the focus of his life.
“Charles Martignette never saw a picture †illustration †he didn’t like †and didn’t want to possess! He was a compulsive collector,” said Reed. “Starting with an interest in pin-up art in the 1970s, it eventually broadened to the best illustrators of all subjects and media. In addition to Vargas, Petty and Elvgren, his collection embraced works by Harvey Dunn, Mead Schaeffer, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and hundreds of others. He was an amiable ‘character’ who loved to wheel and deal, and his passing leaves a big hole in the illustration collecting community.”
“He was a passionate and eclectic collector,” stated Judy Goffman Cutler, co-founder of the National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, R.I., and founder and executive director of the American Illustrators Gallery, New York City.
Paintings from Martignette’s private collections were first exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., in 1980. Since that time, museums throughout the world have displayed works from his diversified collections of American illustration art, including the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art-Fairfield County, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, the Henry Ford Museum, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the Oakland Museum, the Boston Museum of Science, the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, New York City, the Museum of the Rockies and the Willamette Science and Technology Center.
Overseas institutions include Odakyu Museum, Tokyo, Japan, Fukushima Prefectrual Museum of Art, Daimaru Museum, Umeda-Osaka, Osaka, Japan. Museum exhibitions of Charles Martignette’s collection of American illustration art have been presented twice by the Ringling School of Art & Design’s renowned Selby Gallery in Sarasota, Fla.
Between 1980 and 1990, Mr Martignette was a regular Playboy contributor. The magazine published a ten-year series of articles exclusively featuring one of Charles Martignette’s private art collections. These multipaged pictorial and text layouts were regularly published under the title “Provocative Period Pieces.” They appeared in the magazine for more than a decade at the personal direction and wishes of Hugh M. Hefner. The articles were published in the US edition of Playboy as well as in the international Playboy editions of France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Canada and Japan.
Mr Martignette was an only child, the son of the late Charles Martignette and Marie Della Femina Martignette, also of Hallandale and Somerville. He had no surviving direct family members.
A memorial service was conducted on February 13 at St Matthew’s Church in Hallandale. Donations in his memory can be made to the Society of Illustrators, 128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY 10065; 212-838-2560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org , or the American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org .
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