Book illustration auction breaks E H Shepard record



2015-06-26 11:20:45

Book illustration auction breaks E H Shepard record

Sotheby’s December 12 sale, The Art of Illustration, the Collection of Michael Winner, presented the finest single-owner collection of original book illustrations ever offered at auction.

Many of these original artworks are well known from their illustrations of favourite children’s books, and as such are highly recognisable yet unique.

The top lot of the sale was E H Shepard’s original drawing in ink of ‘Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump…’. Edward Bear was the original name of one of the best loved children’s book characters in history, A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

Shepard’s drawing is the first depiction of the character along with Christopher Robin from the first Winnie-the-Pooh book, and is an extremely well known illustration of children’s literature. The drawing sold for £139,250, breaking the record for an E H Milne illustration. Another Shepard drawing featuring the bear, ‘Handsome bell-rope, isn’t it? Said Owl’ sold for £63,650.

The second top seller was an original Beatrix Potter illustration, ‘Gentleman rabbit with letter’. Potter is one of the most popular children’s authors, over a century on since her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published.

Her highly familiar style of illustration is an inseparable factor from her stories, and this image is typically Potter-esque. Her depictions of rabbits are often favourites, as this one dressed in tail-coats and waistcoats with hats and staffs. The drawing sold for £70,850.

Renowned film director Michael Winner, the collector of these pieces, became hooked after discovering two Arthur Rackham originals in an old bookshop. Accordingly, several beautifully preserved Rackham illustrations were popular at the auction. ‘Peter Pan is the Fairies’ Orchestra’ sold for £70,850, ‘Fairies are all more or less in hiding until dark’ sold for £61,250, and ‘The man in the wilderness’ sold for £49,250.

Kay Nielsen’s incredible vision of Hansel and Gretel for The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, 1925 edition, depicts a towering enclosed dark forest with a green heart and edible cottage at the centre, the two children hand in hand drawn towards it. It sold for £49,250 over a £20,000-£30,000 estimate.


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