Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: June 24th

Comic Relief

Illustration has been an area of interest to me ever since I handled the sale of the Playboy archive in 2001. It has always seemed like a medium that attracts an artist with special talent. While Picasso and other great 20th century artists were adept at creating an image with impact, the best illustrators had the additional task of infusing their work with humor. In this auction, we have four works by artists that combine drawing with text to convey a particular brand of dark, underground humor. Two works by R. Crumb, Lot 387 and Lot 388 (illustrations from The Monkey Wrench Gang and Eat It: A Cookbook) show a distinctly subversive point of view. Crumb’s characters were a radical counter-culture perspective that, while popular, were never accepted by the mainstream. (I wonder what would happen if Charlie Brown met Mr. Natural.) In the history of Sunday comics I doubt if the word “sphincter” every appeared.

The work of Charles Addams is even more impressive to me because while his brand of humor is rather dark, he enjoyed an impressive mainstream following in the New Yorker.  Lot  389, “I Tell You Mama…”, was published in the magazine on May 23, 1942.  His characters and style of dark humor captivated a nation in the 1960’s television series “The Addams Family” which was based on characters first published in the New Yorker decades earlier.


This illustration came to my attention at the end of a long day preparing to transport the furniture and art belonging to the Herbert Estate in this auction. It was not on any inventory and was nearly discarded with trash and thrift shop donations. The executor was very surprised in an Antiques-Roadshow-moment- kind-of-way when I said, “Wait, that can go in the auction too!” He was incredulous, but I assured him it would find a happy buyer. Later, as the preview started I opened the frame to discover the New Yorker inscriptions verso; another nice discovery.

Lot Information:

Lot 387
Robert Crumb  
Untitled (Illustration from The Monkey Wrench Gang)    
Ink on paper  
Signature and date lower right  
Image 13″ x 11″; Frame 18.5″ x 16″
Estimate $13,000 – 15,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction 

Lot 388
Robert Crumb  
Untitled (Illustration from Eat It: A Cookbook)    
 Ink on paper  
Image 13.5″ x 10.75″; Frame 23.75″ x 21″  
Estimate $10,000 – 15,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction 

Lot 389
Charles Addams  
“I tell you Mama, the blood…” (Illustration)    
Illustrated in May 23, 1942 issue of the New Yorker  
Ink on paper  
Signed lower right  Image 9″ x 7.5″; Sheet 13 1/8″ x 8 3/4″; Frame 15.5″ x 13″    Provenance: F. Hugh and Mary Herbert, Bel Air  
Estimate $3,000 – 5,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s