Wednesday - 17 September 2014

Winnie-the-Pooh drawings boost Michael Winner sale

10 January 2013Written by Ian McKay

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A third Shepard illustration, this time a variant version of one that he originally made for The House at Pooh Corner  of 1928 was 'Tiggers can't climb trees', in which Christopher Robin, Pooh, Eeyore and Piglet hold out a blanket to catch the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 £30,000.

Beatrix Potter

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 £22,000.

Also sold at that sum was one of 40 illustrations made for a 1908 edition of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Arthur Rackham

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 respectively.

Kay Nielsen

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 higher bids.

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%.

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