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 this 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.
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“It’s no overstatement to say that 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. “Charles practically invented the field of illustration art collecting; he was a collector of unequaled passion. It’s safe to say that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire some of the most important pieces of American illustration art we’re likely to see for decades to come.”
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, the unquestioned bible of the form, and he garnered accolades as the author of several books, chief among them The Complete Works of Gil Elvgren.
“Charles was well aware, at a certain point, of the importance and value of his collection,” said Jaster, “but he didn’t start his collection for the money; he did it because he simply loved the material and had the drive to acquire the best possible examples by all the greats in the field – the combination of quality and quantity makes the collection unparalleled.”
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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, the 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.
collection then will continue the next day, July 16, with Heritage’s Western Art Auction, featuring important 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.
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The Martignette Collection will then 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 to sit here and 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.”
For those who want just a taste of what’s in store as this collection begins to come up for auction, imagine more than 20 Vargas pin-ups, more than 30 Elvgrens, more than 25 George Petty pin-ups, more than 20 major cover and advertising paintings by Leyendecker, 18 major paintings from Dean Cornwell – Martignette’s personal favorite artist – and 10 major Western paintings from Harvey Dunn.
The rest of the collection includes names like: Normal Rockwell, Howard Pyle, Jessie Willcox Smith, Frank Schoonover, Frank Stick, Haddon Sundblom, James Montgomery Flagg, Mead Schaeffer, Saul Tepper, Tom Lovell, Coles Phillips, Amos Sewell, W.H.D. Koerner, Rolf Armstrong, Earl Moran, Enoch Bolles, Norman Saunders, H.J. Ward, George Rozen, Walter Baumhofer, Earl Bergey, Rudolph Belarski and James Avati, among so many others.
To reserve your copy of this, or any Heritage auction catalog, please contact Client Services at 1-800-872-6467, ext. 150, or visit www.ha.com/Catalog to order by email.
Consignors and sellers of Illustration Art are invited to www.HA.com/Sell. Or simply email Todd Hignite at [email protected], or call 1-800-872-6467, ext. 1790.
Heritage’s Signature® Illustration Art Auction will be held July 15, 2009, at the company’s Slocum Street Annex in the Downtown Dallas Design District.
Auction info www.HA.com.