I llustration holds a special place within the canon of American Art – bolstered by a particular strain of nostalgia that certain illustrated works evoke. A sketch by Ludwig Bemelmans, the famous author and illustrator behind the Madeline book franchise, transports viewers back to the days of bedtime stories and make-believe; or an early 20th-century magazine cover from the hand of N.C. Wyeth can drum up a yearning for the days before technology, when sledding hills and husking bees were central to a town's social calendar. Sotheby's American Art Online auction features a collection of splendid illustrations from storied American artists, including Bemelmans, Wyeth and others.
Below, we take you through the works that highlight the sale, which will remain open for bidding until the afternoon of 5 March. Read on to see more, and be sure to see the main sale page for a full catalogue of works.
When He Comes He Will Rule over the Whole World
1913Estimate $200,000 – 300,000
This artwork is accompanied by a copy of Henry van Dyke's The Lost Boy, for which the work served as the frontispiece illustration.
A California Mission
1918Estimate $100,000 – 150,000
Children with Sleds on Snowy Hill (Kuerner’s Hill; Coasting)
Circa 1915 or 1923Estimate $60,000 – 80,000
On this artwork, Christine B. Podmaniczky notes: "the locale of the painting is 'understood' to be Kuerner's Hill in Chadds Ford, and that the children represented 'are those of the artist, with Andrew Wyeth in the foreground.' If Andrew Wyeth was indeed the model, the date of execution would be closer to the later part of the date range." (Christine B. Podmaniczky, N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. II, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 2008, p. 834)
The Husking Bee
1941Estimate $80,000 – 120,000
The present work was originally conceived as a cover illustration for Progressive Farmer magazine, but was never published.
Sketch for Madeline in London
Estimate $6,000 – 8,000
Joseph Christian Leyendecker
Study for ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’
Estimate $10,000 – 15,000
Frank Earle Schoonover
1924Estimate $30,000 – 50,000
Showtime at the Bird Cage, Tombstone, Arizona
1981Estimate $5,000 – 7,000