Pastel art bears Brundage traits, may fetch $6,500

Ask the Experts logo

Q I live in London, Ontario, Canada. Short and sweet, I am a lover of art and consider myself an artist-wanna-be. I bought a piece of art the other day from a second-hand store. Once I got it home, it had me intrigued.  It’s the image of a beautiful, Indonesian-looking woman signed Brundage. It does not appear to be a copy.

Thrift-Store Find Reveals Treasure

I am forwarding a new photo of the piece taken within its frame. The frame itself is wooden and in very good shape, other than some wear on both bottom corners. The drawing is on cream colored paper and measures 12” h. x 9-1/2” w. The dimensions of the frame are 25-1/2” h. x 18-1/2” w.  The drawing looks to be done in pastels and has been glued to the black mat at the upper corners.

I bought this piece for $3 at a thrift store here in London, Ontario on November 30, 2017. The thrift store owner had no information about the piece itself. He said it came to him from a guy who was simply wanting to unload some of this “stuff.”

— J.P., Ontario, Canada

A Margaret Brundage (1900-1976) was an illustration artist most notably recognized for her erotic, mysterious and altogether alluring images. Margaret did not have an easy life.

Recognizable Techniques of Brundage

Her father died when she was 10 years old; her mother and grandmother raised her. In 1921, she entered the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where she studied for two years before leaving in 1923 without graduating. By 1925, she entered the field of fashion when she began sketching for clothing designers. In 1927 she married and had a son, but her happiness was short-lived. Her husband was an abusive alcoholic who often abandoned Margaret and their son; her mother helped raise the child.   

In 1932, the Popular Fiction Company, a company that produced a number of pulp fiction magazines, hired her to illustrate the cover for the September issue of “Oriental Stories” (which later became “Magic Carpet”). The cover was a success and Popular Fiction hired Margaret to illustrate cover art for their other publications, “Magic Carpet” and the magazine for which she is best known, and inextricably linked, “Weird Tales.”  During the next 13 years, Margaret illustrated more than 60 covers for “Weird Tales.” Some people found offense in her illustrations of scantily clad, often-bound women in sexually susceptible – even threatening – situations. 

Signature Possible Indication of Authenticity

Margaret was a true pioneer and a superb illustrator; her work had a unique quality, character and signature most often easily identifiable on sight. She worked in a predominantly male profession and, unlike her counterparts, worked in pastels. After the Popular Fiction Company moved to New York, Margaret’s career stalled and she struggled for the rest of her life.

In 1972 she lost her son and she died in relative poverty in 1976. Her story is truly sad when one considers the depth of her talent and the enduring popularity of her work. As our Antique Trader editor, Antoinette Rahn wrote in the October 3, 2017 issue Ten Things You Didn’t Know About: Margaret Brundage, she was known as “The First Lady of Pulp Pinup Art” and “The Queen of the Pulps.”

I believe what you have is an original Margaret Brundage work. Because she was a woman in a male dominated profession she signed her work M. Brundage or simply Brundage. Your art appears to possess all the characteristics of Margaret’s work and if so I would place a value of $6,500 to $7,000 and more if it was actually used to illustrate one of the pulp magazines.

If it were a published, pulp fiction image of one of the scantily attired women, the value could easily surpass 10 times that much. It’s a wonderful piece. 

COMMENT