Monday, February 27, 2012

Scarce Original E.H. Shepard "Winnie-the-Pooh" Drawing At Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

A scarce, original ink and watercolor drawing by Ernest H. Shepard of  Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, the characters he brought to life in A.A. Milne's classic children's books, 1924-1928, has found its way to market. The drawing, signed and dated February 29, 1932, is a extraordinary example of Shepard illustrating Pooh characters outside the context of the Milne books.

It is being offered by Nate D. Sanders Auctions at their auction closing February 28, 2012.

The autograph letter is addressed to his agent, and reads:

"My dear Carter Brown

Many thanks for your letter. I think you have done splendidly. The view is shared by others (as you see) coloured.

Yours very sincerely

Ernest H. Shepard

Feb 29th/32"

As of this writing, the bid is $10,871. [Update: 2/27/2012, 5:08PM PST - bid is now at $23,000]. [Update: 2/28/2012, 8:33AM PST - the bid is now $27,830].

[UPDATE 2/29/2012: Final bid $40,954, incl. premium].

Ernest Howard Shepard (1879-1976) had been a successful illustrator since 1906 when he was introduced to Alan  A. Milne in 1923 by Punch staffer, E.V. Lucas; Shepard had  contributed to Punch during WWI and joined its staff in 1921.

Milne's initial reaction to Shepard's work was that it was not in a style he felt right to illustrate his work but nonetheless used him to illustrate his collection of poems, When We Were Very Young (1924). Pleased with Shepard's efforts, Milne insisted that Shepard illustrate Winnie-the-Pooh. Shepard based his conception of Pooh upon Growler, his son's stuffed bear.

Recognizing Shepard's enormous contribution to Winnie-the-Pooh's success, Milne assigned Shepard a percentage of his royalties. In what has become a legendary inscription, Milne wrote in Shepard's copy of Winnie-the-Pooh:

When I am gone,
Let Shepard decorate my tomb,
And put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone:
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven,
And Pooh and Piglet walking (157)…
And Peter, thinking that they are my own,
Will welcome me to Heaven.

The only known oil painting by Shepard of Pooh sold at auction for $285,000 in 2000.

Images courtesy of Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with our thanks.

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