Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Martignette, baby, Martignette: Part II today at Heritage

Oct. 27, 2009
Posted by Noah

As you may have sussed if you've read this blog more than once - Mom? Are you there? - I've got kind of a thing for Illustration Art. My life is nothing like Charles Martignette's life, and I am nothing like Martignette, I promise, but I understand the man on the level that - if I could - I would gladly devote my every waking hour to pursuing the very best examples of illustration and locking them away in a couple of remote warehouses that I would only access under cover of dark.

Okay, maybe a bit too dramatic, but today is the day, after all, that the second part of Martignette's epic, astonishing collection hits the auction block as part of our October Illustration Auction. And let me tell you, included in this auction is some of the tastiest American Art ever produced. Period. The thing is deep with Elvgren, steeped in Vargas and dripping with Leyendecker, Bolles, Moran, Avati, Flagg, Lovell and so many more...

What will today bear out? The first auction, in July of this year, was a stunner, with Martignette pulling down more than $3 million alone, with some amazing prices paid deep into the auction. There were many paintings in that auction that I really wanted but never had a shot at, really, because they were all going for multiples of their estimates. The sale had Heritage Auctions all over the news, with a great write-up in the New York Times and an AP story that spread across the globe. The excitement in the room, especially for the Elvgrens, was palpable.

There is not so much hype around this auction, but the word is certainly out, and you can bet that there will be people bidding, and bidding hard, for the best examples. The hardcore collectors are already vying for the top pieces, and there is no shortage of people who came in because of the PR from the first one and, like me, got hooked. The only difference is that in most cases, I presume, they can buy. I can't, yet, but I can certainly dream...

I can tell you this, too, that there are a couple paintings - two in particular - from the first auction that, if they ever come back on the market, will not escape me. Which ones, you ask?

Not telling, I say.
The painting above, Earl Moran's unabashed masterpiece Golden Hours, is my favorite in this auction. And trust me, there are about 100 more competing right next to it, but this one famous image from the 1940s is a magnificent study of form and color. Moran was known for his use of bold background colors, but if you look at the painting to the left of this graph, Evening Glow, which is another truly gorgeous portrait, you can see that Moran was, simply, a master of light. Move past the fact that he painted women, if it bothers you - he was a journeyman painter, he needed to feed his family, and it was good work.

It must also be said that I have exceedingly good taste, as the bid for Golden Hours is already at $31,000+ with buyer's premium, and - as I see it - will go even higher. Don't be surprised if it reaches $50,000 or more.

We're lucky to live in an age when we can look back, see all these paintings in context of their time, and value them as works of art. See them in person, not just in print, and you will be amazed how quickly they transform from cheesecake or kitsch to bonafide painting. The skill of the artists is undeniable.

I'll be watching closely this afternoon as this auction goes off, for sure. Martignette's provenance is one that will never lose its import; this series of auctions is the seminal event so far in the evolution of the collecting of Illustration Art. Enjoy it now. There are only about 3,300 pieces left...

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-Noah Fleisher

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