With a total estimated value of 1.5m , the ten lots being presented by the Christie's auction house, in association with the Daniel Maghen Gallery, provide some of the best and most interesting pieces from the pen of Hergé to be made available for sale in what has become a veritable golden age for his art being offered to the public.
When works such as the cover-art for The Shooting Star
and the original design for the early end-papers sell for over 2.5m each, and his cover painting for Tintin in America
set a record for comic art at auction several years back, it has to be said that Hergé is no longer seen as "just" a comic-book artist, but as a figure with a profound effect on his craft's history, and a major figure in contemporary 20th Century art.
To comics enthusiasts his work stands on his own merits, but even for the many who equate the ability to command large sums of money in the commercial market with the validation of an artist's importance, he is being reassessed in a positive way.
More to the point for those of us without the financial resources to buy the art itself, sales such as this give us the opportunity to see many items which otherwise might be left in a vault or on the walls of a private collection.
Foremost in a selection of fine items is the pen-and-ink art for a poster which Hergé drew for Casterman in March of 1945, depicting Tintin carrying - and dropping! - a stack of the albums available up to that time. This means that in addition to very nice main images of Tintin and Snowy, the purchaser will get, at a single stroke, eleven small vignettes representing all, or at least portions of, the cover art for those books, reproduced in miniature to an exacting level of accuracy.
There will be equal interest, I imagine, in pencil art for what is described as the last cover designed and drawn by Hergé for the Tintin
magazine in 1978; this would be a significant event in and of itself, but the piece is made even more special by being a retrospective gallery revisiting what is held by many to be a milestone in his career - The Blue Lotus
; it depicts not just Tintin, but many of the heroes and villains of the piece, and was used to herald a colour republication of the original Black-and-white version of the strip.
Surprisingly this cover seems to have been used on the French but not the Belgian edition of the magazine (the colour version may not have run there); it was also used on the cover of one of the hard-back collections of the magazine that same year.
Hergé's covers grew fewer and fewer over the years, but after this there was nothing other than art which had already appeared elsewhere, such as for the 50th anniversary, which reproduces the cover of the Casterman limited edition Cinquante ans de Travaux Fort Gais
("Fifty Years of Jolly Hard Labour").
The cover contains a written dedication and signature from Hergé, placed in a box originally left blank by the artist, which contained information about The Blue Lotus
re-print when the final cover was composed for publication.
If you can live with them being pencil roughs rather than finished art, the two examples of work in progress pages from The Red Sea Sharks
might be for you. Corresponding to pages 40 (the rescue of the castaways from their raft, and arrival on the Scheherazade
) and 56 (Haddock on the bridge of the S.S. Ramona
, attacking the ship's engine-room telegraph) of the finished album, they have slight differences in composition to the final versions, and come with doodles, sketches and some sums in the margins.
These star items should not overshadow the other lots, any of which would be the centre piece in anyone's collection: two individual inked frames from Prisoners of the Sun
depicting Captain Haddock; a page-long advert for a chocolatier in the form of a Quick & Flupke
strip, featuring Quick and Agent 15; the design for a greeting's card to be sent as press publicity for the Tintin and the Temple of the Sun
film in 1969; another publicity piece, showing the major characters walking out of the frame (which given that it has several of them carrying books, and Professor Calculus is carrying what appears to be both the Belgian and U.S. flags, might have been intended for use in the States, perhaps by Little Brown?); and last but not least, an unusual item - a collaboration between Hergé and Greg (Michel Régnier), which shows Tintin welcoming Zig, Puce and Alfred the penguin to the offices of the magazine in 1963.Zig et Puce
was a strip of which Hergé had been very fond, and he admired the artist Alain Saint-Ogan who created and drew it (he owned a page of original art, which Saint-Ogan had dedicated and autographed to him); these new, later adventures were to be written and drawn by Greg, who worked with Hergé on the aborted story Les Pillules/ Tintin et le Thermozéro
, edited the magazine, and who later wrote the animated feature Tintin and the Lake of Sharks
Two new Zig et Puce
stories were to appear by him: Le Prototype Zéro-Zéro
and La Pierre qui Vol
(The Flying Stone
This piece, with contributions from both Hergé and Greg, and featuring characters created by one of Hergé's artistic heroes is certainly unusual, and possibly unique, so it will be interesting to see how it fares when the sale takes place.
A sign of just how seriously the comics world is being taken by collectors of contemprary art, is that there is to be a viewing of the lots in New York prior to the sale in Paris, allowing a wider number of connoisseurs to see the pages in person before considering a purchase.
There is every possibility of the sale exceeding the estimates, especially for a work as well known as the book-shop poster, which, through a reproduction of the original included as a facsimile in Dominique Maricq's excellent Hergé and the Treasures of Tintin
, as well as being the inspiration for a popular statuette by Leblon, has become an iconic image of Tintin.
The lots will be on display at Christie's in New York from February the 27th until March the 4th, 2015, and then at the firm's auction house in Paris before being sold on the afternoon of the 14th March. This forms a separate showcase sale to the company's comic art sale which is taking place the same weekend.