Capture the Imagination: Original Illustration & Fine Illustrated Books
Bloomsbury Auctions. New York, NY
Wednesday 9th December at 2:00 pm
Exhibition viewings are: Saturday December 5, 10 am- 3 pm Monday December 7, 10 am- 5 pm Tuesday December 8, 10 am- 5 pm Wednesday December 9, 10 am- 1 pm Or by private appointment.
Bloomsbury Auctions announces their annual holiday sale of original illustrations and fine illustrated books on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 2:00pm. The sale will feature important works from the Golden Age of Illustration to the present day. It will commence with the artistic estate of award winning African American artist Tom Feelings, a native of Brooklyn, New York. The late Tom Feelings worked as a freelance illustrator of children’s books for over thirty years. Throughout his career, Feelings received numerous awards and honors for his outstanding portrayals of Africans and African Americans. Among the highlights of the sale is the entire collection of Feelings’ seminal 1996 work The Middle Passage ($250,000-$350,000), Caldecott Honor Book Moja Means One (1972), Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987) and Soul Looks Back in Wonder (1994). The sale will also offer the artist’s personal collection of paintings, drawings, fine prints and sculptures by such prominent African American artists as Don Nelson, Paul Goodnight, Karen Johnson, Joel Gresham, Leroy Clarke and Brian Collier.
Introduction to the Artwork of Tom Feelings
Tom Feelings was one of the first book illustrators to focus his depictions of life squarely upon the lives of an underclass of people long-neglected in the States. He’d been the illustrator of a score of children’s, adult and young adult books before he died in 2003, yet his work had been experienced by thousands of people before he published his first book.
His contributions to the everyday mimeographed literature of the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements of the 50s, 60s, and 70s – drawings done for community flyers, handouts, school educational materials and rallying posters – helped these movements touch the public’s aesthetic consciousness; sketched, unadorned figures from his Brooklyn neighborhood appeared routinely in national journals and magazines like Look, Freedomways, Liberator, and Black World (soon to be known as Ebony magazine), no doubt encouraging their popularity at the time. His impact traveled further abroad as well, into international progressive communities, like Ghana (West Africa) and Guyana (South America), where he worked in media-related fields for their respective governments in the 1960s and in the early 70s.As a mainstream illustrator, he published themed books with several notable authors such as Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, and Sonia Sanchez, winning a Caldecott Award along the way. He illustrated Roberta Flack’s album cover, Oasis, published from a sketch of the singer he made on a dinner napkin. And during the course of his work on a series of pictures called The Middle Passage, Feelings began a phase of three-dimensional artistry which involved carving into large pieces of wood, fashioning scores of sculptures, a few of which had been included in the series’ tour.
The Middle Passage has had an especially significant influence on contemporary culture since its publication in book form, and since the pictures began touring, in 1993. Director Steven Spielberg and Producer Debbie Allen pay homage to the work when depicting the experience of enslavement in the film, Amistad (1998); and subsequent documentaries on the subject utilized scores of images from the paintings. More recently, director Ruben Santiago-Hudson personally noted my father’s illustrations in inspiring him to choreograph the “Middle Passage” scene in his stage play productions of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (in Princeton and San Francisco). The Welsh television station, Antena, in association with BBC Wales, used several images from The Middle Passage in 2004 to chronicle the history of African-descended Welsh in their television series, “Cymru Ddu” (“Black Welsh”). The United States National Park Service in 2007 commissioned a monument to be erected using select images from the master series as well. Tom Feelings’ The Middle Passage, particularly continues to have an impact on the world at large.
Born and raised on 210 Putnam Avenue (now called, “Tom Feelings Way”) in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, Feelings was less interested in glamorizing the many generations of black lives he saw when he ventured outdoors to draw from life. Rather, the artist attempted to expose an aesthetic “brilliance” just behind what, at first glance, appeared to be only bemused faces, bowed postures, veiled eyes, and contemptuous looks in those parks, playgrounds, avenues, stores, and barbershops that he moved in and out of as a young man. He was, both in the sense of his timeliness to the genre, and in the sense of his understanding of the subject matter, a revolutionary figure in the world of illustration artwork.
As a black artist, he was romantic in a new culturally heroic way too – with grandiose notions of “reaching out” with his pen – affecting as many “poor black children” as he could with his compassionate body of work. In that sense, he fashioned himself a kind of black hero, similar to the superheroes he drew in his early comic book work. This romantic way of thinking about himself, for such a shy and sensitive man, functioned as a foil against the capitalistic reality of his difficult, early life as a freelance advertising illustrator in late 50’s Manhattan. (There was no work at that time for a black illustrator in any medium, looking to focus his work on the black underclass.)
My father, born a poor Brooklyn child, never had his life neatly mapped out for himself, after all. The fact that he was soon able, through libraries and bookstores all over the world, to influence millions through the articulation of his romantic and persistent vision is a miraculous thing. We, The Estate of Tom Feelings and Bloomsbury Auctions, hope you appreciate this artist’s body of illustration and fine art work, and give consideration to the true value of his legacy.
Kamili O. Feelings
The Estate of Tom Feelings
Philadelphia, November 2009
The second session will include a drawing for a book cover by Aubrey Beardsley ($9,000-$10,000), John R. Neill’s painting of Cap’n Bill as a merman ($10,000-$15,000) from L. Frank Baum’s The Sea Fairies, Willy Pogány’s watercolor for A Midsummer’s Nights Dream ($12,000-$15,000) and Gustaf Tenggren’s early illustration of Trolls ($10,000-$12,000).
Among the other important modern illustrators are Caldecott winners Arnold Lobel, Uri Shulevitz, Beni Montresor, Evaline Ness, Richard Egielski, Paul Zelinsky, Trina Schart Hyman, and Leonard Weisgard. Some of the treasures that will be auctioned are Maurice Sendak’s original designs for the Wild Things Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon ($40,000-$50,000) and watercolors by William Steig for the original Shrek! ($15,000-$20,000) and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble ($15,000-$20,000). Two time Caldecott winners Leo and Diane Dillon are represented by works from Ashanti to Zulu ($15,000-$17,000), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice ($10,000-$12,000) and other award-winning titles.
There will also be watercolors, drawings and other work by Edward Ardizonne, Edward Gorey, Tomi Ungerer, Al Hirschfeld, H. A. Rey, James Marshall, Barry Moser, Charles Santore, Charles M. Schultz and Walt Disney. Fine illustrated books include rare Oz titles, a Randolph Caldecott sketchbook, the works of A. A. Milne and a privately printed edition of The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter, limited edition Rackhams and numerous autographed picture books.