Published: May 11, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Heritage Auctions
DALLAS – Heritage Auctions’ twice-annual Illustration Art Signature sales – sold in April and October – typically net between $1.5 and $2 million so when the firm’s April 30 auction made $2.3 million and was more than 98 percent sold by lot, it was worth celebrating.
“We were absolutely thrilled with it,” Meagan McMillan, the consignment director for fine and decorative arts at Heritage Auctions said about the firm’s April 30 Illustration Art Signature sale. “From the original artwork for Boston’s Don’t Look Back album cover by Gary Norman to Alberto Vargas reclaiming of his name with Mara Corday – this sale was filled with excellent examples by illustrators of every genre. Vargas’ “Mara Corday” was the quintessential example with his iconic V-leg pose. We could not be happier that this work received the attention it deserved, with 15 bidders that resulted in the fourth highest result Heritage Auctions has ever had with Alberto Vargas.”
McMillan was referring to one of the most iconic pinup images ever created: Vargas’s “Mara Corday, True Girl,” February 1952, which sold for $100,000 to take top-lot honors. The model in the image, Mara Corday, is shown in the signature V-leg pose that was Vargas’s calling card in her second sitting for the artist – he lost the rights to the first, and other images he signed as “Varga,” in a years-long legal battle with Esquire magazine. Esquire sued the artist for the works signed “Vargas” in True magazine but ultimately failed. This win and the publication of his nine “True Girls,” including the present work revitalized the artist and his career. The image has been reproduced in the book Vargas (Taschen, 1990), as the King of Spades card in a deck of cards published in 1950, and on a billboard for a Vargas exhibition that overlooked San Francisco’s Union Square. McMillan told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that Heritage had sold the original “Mara Corday” for $101,000 in 2010.
Interest in the sale was not just for adult-themed material, as evidenced by the second highest lot in the sale, which hailed from the Children’s Book Illustration section of the sale. Ernest Howard Shepard’s interior book illustration titled “It Appears You Have Eaten a Bee,” which appeared in A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, finished at $93,750, nearly doubling its high estimate. The work captured the humor and personality of the author’s beloved characters, which have entertained children for generations. McMillan commented that the result, which was itself significant for a small black and white drawing by the artist, doubled the result the work had achieved when Doyle sold it for $46,875 in April 2020.
An interior book illustration that Charles Addams did for his 1947 book, Addams and Evil, captures the sinister whimsy of an Addams Family Christmas. It brought $87,500, more than seven times its high estimate and a new world record for the artist.
Just a couple of months after the Perseverance Rover landing on Mars, two works by Chesley Bonestell (American, 1888-1986) evoked nostalgia for the early days of space exploration. Bonestell’s book cover for Wernher von Braun’s The Exploration of Mars, which was titled “Winged Rocket Ferry Orbits Mars Prior to Landing after 250-Day Flight” from 1956 soared to $87,500, nearly three times its high estimate. A second work by Bonestell, “Mars as Seen from the Outer Satellite, Deimos,” which was used as an interior illustration in The Solar System, made $41,250.
Commercial artist Gary Norman did not have a body of auction records to reference so when he approached Heritage about selling the artwork for his only album cover – Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” 1978 record – the house priced it conservatively, at $5/7,000. It made $81,250. Norman was quoted after the sale as saying “I am totally blown away and very pleased with that – my heart is still pounding,” Norman said of the result. “That’s gonna be something I remember for the rest of my life. Looking back at ‘Don’t Look Back,’ it’s quite amazing.”
The auction included three video covers from the artist widely recognized as the preeminent designer of movie posters, John Alvin. Arguably his most instantly recognizable work came from the Star Wars films, one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. Three VHS covers that Alvin did in 1995, for The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope and Return of the Jedi were each estimated at $20/30,000 and each outperformed expectation, selling for $62,500, $37,500 and $32,500, respectively.
Heritage Auctions’ next Illustration Art sale is scheduled for October 19.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For more information, 214-528-3500 or www.ha.com.
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