Charles Martignette estate to be auctioned in three sales at Heritage Auctions

DALLAS – When Charles Martignette passed away in February 2008, his collection was already the stuff of legend, containing every major name of American illustration – on multiple canvasses – from the last century. A full 4,300 pieces, comprising his entire art collection, will be featured in a series of auctions at Heritage Auction Galleries, starting in July with the firm’s July 15 illustration art auction.

A public exhibition of the Martignette collection has been scheduled in New York City, May 20-22, at the Ukrainian Institute (formerly Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion) at the corner of 79th Street and 5th Avenue.

“Martignette’s unceasing devotion to his collection has given us the single most important gathering of illustration artists and art to ever make its way to public auction,” said Ed Jaster, vice president of Heritage Auction Galleries.

Beginning in the early 1970s Charles Martignette began what would become his life’s work and lasting legacy. Before practically anyone thought of the works of artists like Gil Elvgren, Alberto Vargas and J.C. Leyendecker as serious art, Martignette went about systematically gathering the finest examples of their work. His collection eventually expanded to cover all facets and periods of illustration art. Names like Harvey Dunn, Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish – among hundreds of others – soon populated his collection. He made it a mission to acquire and preserve the work of illustrators he considered important.

Martignette became the acknowledged authority on American illustration, particularly pin-up art. He is the co-author of The Great American Pin-up, and he garnered accolades as the author of several books, chief among them The Complete Works of Gil Elvgren.

“Charles was well aware of the importance of his collection,” said Jaster, “but he didn’t start it for the money; he did it because he loved the material and had the drive to acquire the best possible examples by all the greats in the field.”

The collection was acquired directly from the estate’s heirs earlier this year by a group of nine private investors who, in turn, consigned the entire collection to Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, a leader in the field of illustration art auctions. The sheer volume of important art was more than any one auction could hold, so Heritage will sell the artwork over the course of several different auctions throughout the next year, beginning with its July 15 Signature® Illustration Art Auction.

The sale of the collection will continue on July 16, with the Western art auction, featuring Western themed art from the estate, including The Spill, by William Herbert Dunton, possibly the most important Western painting by Dunton ever offered at auction.

Martignette’s collection will be the focal point of Heritage’s Oct. 21, 2009, auction of Important Glamour and Pin-Up Art, with Mel Ramos’ seminal 1963 Pop Art canvas Sheena, Queen of the Jungle anchoring what is sure to be a highly anticipated and hotly contested auction.

“If I were try to name all the major highlights of this collection,” said Jaster, “it would take me half a day. That’s how deep this collection goes. To say that we’re ecstatic to be offering this collection is a serious understatement. There are no words to describe how excited we are to offer this important artwork from one of the greatest collectors of the 20th century.”

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