Swann Auction Galleries in New York City held their semiannual Illustration Art Auction on Thursday December 16th. The sale was memorable for the variety and quality of the artwork offered. It also set two new artist auction sale price records.
The first record came early in the sale for a 1911 masterpiece painting by Edmund Dulac for The Snow Queen which sold for $125,000.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium). This was followed shortly thereafter by a new record auction price for original artwork by Edward Gorey - $27,500.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium) for a 1964 pen & ink book cover design for The Dark Beasts, a paperback collection of stories by Frank Belknap Long (this piece has not been added to my collection).
The 7 3/8" x 9 1/4" black and white image (on a 9 1/4" x 11 1/4" sheet) depicting all manner of demons from Hell has an imaginative nightmare quality not often found in Edward Gorey's works. The writhing beasties bare their teeth and claws at one another while fixing their burning eyes on the viewer. The lyrical elegance of the original black and white artwork was somewhat diminished in the final book jacket design due to the addition of a fiery background and masses of blocky white type crowding amongst the creatures.
The nasty Dark Beasts creatures are siblings to the other worldly monsters Mr. Gorey used three years earlier for his 1961 book The Hapless Child. Members of this Hellish family adorn the covers and one hidden monster is hidden in every drawing within the book. In this volume the monsters are more metaphorical than menacing, being silent commentators rather than active participants in unfolding drama.
The Beast's $27,500.00 sale price (hammer price plus buyer's premium) beat the previous record of $22,500.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium) for a pair of theater drawings sold at Swann in July 2020.
Along with three other works by Edward Gorey offered at the December 16, 2020 Swann auction, The
Dark Beasts was consigned by The Edward Gorey Charitable
Trust and proceeds from the sale will benefit the Trust's charitable mission