Elvgren, Bolles and Bonestell lead record-breaking $3.4M illustration art auction

Martignette collection dominates top offerings; new all-time auction price records set for Enoch Bolles, Chesley Bonestell and Coles Phillips


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J.C. Leyendecker (American, 1874-1951), Looks Good for '48, Amoco ad illustration, 1948, oil on canvas, 22 inches by 27 inches. Monogrammed lower left. This charming J. C. Leyendecker baby was used by Amoco, the American Oil Company, for their 1948 advertising campaign. The canvas has been cut down to eliminate the Amoco logo. Additionally, all of the advertising lettering was overpainted; a portion of the original lettering is underneath the white background. This image was also used extensively for billboard advertising during the 1948 advertising schedule. Small Amoco notepads and blotters were produced and distributed nationally. Estimated before the sale at $18,000 to $24,000, this original Amoco ad illustration reached $20,315.

BEVERLY HILLS — Gil Elvgren’s landmark pin-up, Bear Facts (A Modest Look; Bearback Rider), 1962, brought $191,200 in Heritage Auction Galleries Beverly Hills’ record-setting May 6 Illustration Art Auction. The auction realized more than $3.4 million total, and continued the stellar rise of the Illustration Art market, dominated by the blockbuster estate of Charles Martignette, which continues to produce examples and record prices. All prices include 19.5 percent buyer’s premium.

“Bear Facts is a particularly important example from Martignette,” said Ed Jaster, Vice President of Heritage Auctions. “Not only was it his favorite piece out of the more than 4,000 that he owned, it represents Elvgren at the peak of his powers and is viewed, by many, as the pinnacle of American pin-up art.”

More than 1,100 bidders competed – in-person in Beverly Hills, via Internet, mail, phone bidding and Heritage LIVE! – on the 670 lots offered. The auction saw more than 90 percent of prices realized by value and more than 95 percent by lot total.

The good name of Elvgren produced several of the Top 10 lots in the auction, including his evocative 1961 masterpiece Jackpot, from another consignor, which soared to a $131,450 finish against its base pre-auction estimate of $30,000. The painting was not only the subject of intense bidding during the auction, it was also one of the most actively watched paintings in the entire auction, garnering more than 9,500 pre-auction page views on www.HA.com.

A world record price of $80,663 was realized for Enoch Bolles’ surreal October 1935 Sure to Make a Hit, Film Fun magazine cover, another of Martignette’s most important pieces. Determined bidders vied for several minutes over the suggestive painting, driving it far above its pre-auction estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.

Another of the few pieces to break the Top 10 lots of the auction that didn’t have Martignette’s name attached to it came in the form of Chesley Bonestell’s Saturn Viewed from Titan, circa 1952, realizing $77,675.

“This iconic image is perhaps the most famous and recognized image Bonestell ever painted, having been used no less than in 10 different publications in its 60 years,” said Jaster. “The painting represents the top offering in the auction from the famed Frank collection, a gathering as important to sci-fi and fantasy art in its own right as Martignette’s collection is to the illustration art genre.”

One more record-setting painting also happened to be another of Martignette’s favorites, Coles Phillips’ 1922 Holeproof Hosiery Company ad illustration, one of the most famous images of the period, certainly one of the most controversial, and one of the earliest paintings that could be considered a pin-up. Amidst much wrangling from erudite collectors, it rose to a final price of $77,675.

Among other world record prices set for individual artists was one set for pulp cover artist Rafael De Soto’s New Detective, pulp cover, January 1948, which realized $28,680, another for pin-up favorite Henry Clive’s 1925 Sultana, calendar illustration, proving exceedingly popular with a record $22,705 final price and Golden Age great McClelland Barclay, whose Pictorial Review cover, September 1933, saw the same record price of $22,705.

Martignette’s gathering of Alberto Vargas paintings was also amply represented in the auction with several important works, but perhaps none so much as Vargas’ early, seminal circa 1932 watercolor, Reverie, which was the artist’s top example in the auction, making its way to $77,675, more than three times its pre-auction base estimate of $18,000.

Further Highlights include, but are not limited to:

Rolf Armstrong (American, 1889-1960), Twinkle Toes, circa 1947: Pastel on board, 38 inches by 28 1/2 inches. Signed center right. From the estate of Charles Martignette. Realized $56,763.

J.C. Leyendecker (American, 1874-1951), Record Time, Cool Summer Comfort, House of Kuppenheimer ad illustration, circa 1920: Oil on canvas, 21 1/2 inches by 20 inches. Not signed. From the estate of Charles Martignette. Realized $47,800.

Earl Moran (American, 1893-1984), A Mere Maid, Brown and Bigelow calendar illustration, circa late 1930s: Pastel on board, 38 inches by 29 inches. Signed lower right. Realized $35,850.

For more information on Heritage Auction Galleries and their auction events, visit www.HA.com.

Photos courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries.

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More Images:

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Coles Phillips (American, 1880-1927), Holeproof Hosiery Company ad illustration, 1922, watercolor on paper, 24 inches by 25 inches. Signed lower left. This lovely ad illustration was published in Life, Redbook, Library Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pictorial Review, and Women's Home Companion magazines in 1922 and 1923. From the Estate of Charles Martignette. The original art illustration achieved a final bid of $65,725 against a presale estimate of $18,000 to $24,000.
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Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), Bear Facts (A Modest Look; Bearback Rider), 1962, oil on canvas, 30 inches by 24 inches. Signed lower left. From the estate of Charles Martignette. Estimated at $50,000 to $75,000, the original painting realized $191,200, including buyer's premium.
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Enoch Bolles (American, 1883-1976), Sure to Make a Hit, Film Fun magazine cover, October 1935, oil on canvas, 30 inches by 22 inches. Not signed. Far exceeding its presale estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, this frolicky pin-up reached a final price of $80,662, including buyer's premium.
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Gil Elvgren (American, 1914-1980), Jackpot, 1961, oil on canvas, 29 inches by 22 1/2 inches. Signed lower right. Realized $131,450 against a presale estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.

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