As predicted, Michael Winner’s superb collection of original book illustrations realised a total in excess of £1m at Sotheby’s.
However this total on December 12 was only
achieved with premiums added, and it needed some strong individual
performances to ensure that end result.
Although most of the more important items
did sell, only around two-thirds of the pictures found buyers.
The best-represented illustrators were
Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen, but it was no
surprise to find the day's highest bid going to an iconic E.H.
Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin coming down the stairs,
dragging Winnie-the-Pooh behind him - "Bump, Bump, Bump, on the
back of his head".
This is the ink drawing that faces the
opening page of the 1926, first edition
of Winnie-the-Pooh, and one of the more famous images
in all children's literature. In 1991,
Sotheby's sold it for £17,000, but this time there was little
surprise that it improved a little on a £70,000-100,000 estimate to
sell at £115,000. It was bought by Kendra and Allan Daniels,
American collectors and dealers who had their own major sale at
Sotheby's New York in April 2011 (see ATG No 1990).
Another illustration from that beloved book
was the one in which Pooh finds Eeyore's lost tail being used as a
bell-pull by Owl. On the day it just about topped the low estimate
in selling at £52,000.
A third Shepard illustration, this time a
variant version of one that he originally made for The House at
Pooh Corner of 1928 was 'Tiggers can't climb trees', in
which Christopher Robin, Pooh, Eeyore and Piglet hold out a blanket
to catch the falling Tigger. One of the many variants or copies of
his illustrations that Shepard is known to have produced as
presents or on commission, it sold a little under estimate at
There was just a single Beatrix Potter
illustration in the collection, and it was not something from one
of her books, but the ink and watercolour drawing of a 'Gentleman
Rabbit with Letter'. It sold over estimate at £58,000.
Dating from c.1890-93 and presumably one of
the many greeting card designs that BP made at this time for the
firm of Hildesheimer, it was determined to be a prototype drawing
of Benjamin Bunny when it came up for sale at Christie's South
Kensington in December 2004 and sold for £25,000.
There were 18 works by Edmund Dulac on
offer, all of them ink or pencil and watercolour drawings, and 13
of them found new homes.
Top lot, at £23,000, was the original for
'To... (Mrs Marie Louise Shew)', a mysterious female figure staring
out from a dark, woodland setting that was one of 28 colour plates
he produced for a 1912 edition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Bells
and other Poems. Another illustration for the Poe collection,
a dark image of the faces of ghouls swirling around a church
steeple that sold for £15,000, is pictured here.
These were among a number of Dulac
illustrations that had been valued at £15,000-20,000 apiece -
others including one of 20 made for a 1909 edition of
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 'Came shining through
the Dusk an Angel Shape', which sold at £21,000, and 'Ever with the
tears falling down from her eyes she sighed and sang', the original
of one of 50 colour plates that illustrated a 1907 edition of
Stories from the Arabian Nights. The latter sold for
Also sold at that sum was one of 40
illustrations made for a 1908 edition of Shakespeare's The
No fewer than 24 pieces by the prolific
Arthur Rackham were to be found in the Winner collection, but here
there were more problems and little more than half of them, 14
lots, found buyers.
A couple of early and somewhat monochrome
ink and watercolour drawings made in 1901 for the magazineLittle
Folksand later published in The Land of Enchantment,
valued at £20,000-30,000 apiece, failed to sell, as did two
illustrations for a 1905 edition of Rip van Winkle, but
there were ups as well as downs among the Rackhams.
The very next lot to be offered, 'Peter Pan
is the Fairies Orchestra', an illustration to Peter Pan in
Kensington Gardens of 1906 showing the infant Peter
seated on toadstools and playing Pan pipes to the dancing and
frolicking fairies, topped its estimate at £58,000.
Sold at a high-estimate £49,000 was a second
illustration from the same work, 'Fairies are all more or less in
hiding until dark' - another example pictured here.
'The Shipwrecked Man and the Sea', a
dramatic scene from a 1912 edition of Aesop's Fables
in which a giant, naked female figure emerges from the waves,
improved on estimate to sell at £38,000.
Sold for a mid-estimate £40,000 was 'The Man
in the Wilderness', an illustration from Mother
Goose of 1913 in which a little girl encounters a pixie
(?) seated by his camp beneath those familiar, pollarded and
anthropomorphised trees - forerunners of Tolkien's Ents - that are
characteristic of some of his work.
'Kay and Gerda in their garden high up on
the roof' and 'She took him by the wrist and he laughed until he
clucked', two of the dozen illustrations made for one of Rackham's
later books, a 1932 edition of Hans Andersen's Fairy
Tales, were further successes at £35,000 and £34,000
Of the 14 works by Kay Nielsen in the Winner
collection, 12 found buyers. Most were ink drawings that sold in
the £1800-3600 range, but two ink and watercolour drawings brought
What is thought to have been an early, but
eventually unused, design for the frontispiece to In Powder and
Crinoline of 1913 was sold at a low-estimate £15,000, but
bid to a higher than expected £40,000 by the Daniels was 'They saw
that the Cottage was made of of Bread and Cakes', one of 12 plates
made for a 1925 edition of Hansel and Gretel and other Stories
by the Brothers Grimm.
In 1990 at Sotheby's, this striking image,
used as a catalogue cover illustration, had sold for £8000.
Of 48 copies of the books for which the
illustrations in the Winner collection were made, most of them
limited editions, three-quarters found buyers - with prices peaking
at £2200 for one of 500 copies in vellum gilt of the
Dulac-illustrated Sinbad the Sailor and other
Stories... of 1914.
The buyer's premium at Sotheby's was 25/20/12%.
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.