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Books & Manuscripts

Historical Highlights of Children's Illustration

NEW YORK – The history of children's illustration is rich with fascinating creators, from Gustave Doré and Noel Paton to modern masters like Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak. Sotheby's online auction Icons of Children's Illustration (30 November–14 December) introduces you to this magical world and the minds that built it. Here, we select some important highlights by highly original artists and their enchanting backstories.

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LOT 53. MAXFIELD PARRISH, PROOFS OF HIS ILLUSTRATIONS FOR MOTHER GOOSE IN PROSE, 1897. ESTIMATE $40,000–60,000. LOT 54. MAXFIELD PARRISH, "THE WONDROUS WISE MAN," 1897. ESTIMATE $150,000–200,000.

Mother Goose in Prose (1897) was the first children’s book published by L. Frank Baum, best known for the Wizard of Oz, as well as the first book illustrated by painter Maxfield Parrish (1870–1966). Icons of Children’s Illustration features a complete set of 14 autographed prints, each signed in pencil by Parrish – the only limited signed images created by the artist. Of utmost rarity, this is number 23 of 27 total sets published. Also included in the sale is one of Parrish’s original drawings previously owned by Baum, “The Wondrous Wise Man.” Believed to be Baum's source for the character of Oz himself, the eyes and nose of the drawing’s profile overlap with the untitled second volume of Repartees illustrated on the shelf – namely O–Z. This auction represents the very first time this picture is being offered for public sale.

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LOT 55. NOEL PATON, TWO ORIGINAL DRAWINGS FROM THE WATER-BABIES, 1863. ESTIMATE $80,000–120,000.

Sotheby's will offer as one lot two original ink drawings by Pre-Raphaelite British artist Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821–1902) that were originally printed in the first edition of the important Victorian fairy tale novel The Water-Babies (1863) by Charles Kingsley. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898) – better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll – found these pictures so delicate and sensual that he inquired if Paton would illustrate his "Wonderland" story, but Paton declined and instead recommended his colleague John Tenniel. Paton was later elected a full member of the Royal Academy in 1850 and knighted by Queen Victoria in 1866. Kingsley's text for the The Water-Babies is in part a satire in support of Charles Darwin’s Origins of Species and became extremely popular in the 20th century.

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LOT 26. GUSTAVE DORÉ, PUSS IN BOOTS, CIRCA 1870. ESTIMATE $300,000–500,000.

Gustave Doré (1832–1883) was among the most prolific and dramatic artists working in 19th-century France, producing engravings and a dozen folio titles illustrating world literature, each translated into many languages. His version of the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault remained in print from 1862 onwards, and for the 300th anniversary of these stories the French government chose Doré’s image of Puss in Boots to commemorate the author on a postage stamp. In his day, he was celebrated for his oil paintings – one of which is available in Icons of Children's Illustration – and created an exhibit of these fairy tale pictures rendered as fine art. None is more iconic than his Puss in Boots.

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LOT 14. CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON (LEWIS CARROLL), ALICE LIDDELL SEATED BESIDE A POTTED FERN, 1860. ESTIMATE $120,000–180,000.

Alice Liddell (1852–1934) was the youngest of three sisters who inspired Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) to write his famous Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (1865). She lived in the Deanery at Christ Church, Oxford where Dodgson taught mathematics and logic. Dodgson was also a pioneering photographer and Alice was often his inspiration. Icons of Children's Illustration includes an original photograph of an 8-year-old Alice that Dodgson had professionally coloured and presented to the young girl. It stayed with her family until 2001, when her granddaughter auctioned the remaining estate at Sotheby's London. There have been no other portraits of Alice photographed by Dodgson offered for sale since that historic auction fifteen years ago.

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