This past week, Sotheby's auctioned a portion of the illustration collection of Kendra and Allan Daniels. It happened that I was in New York City, and was able to take advantage of the auction preview and the chance to view the 193 lots that were going on the block. It was an excellent opportunity to see some fine illustration art! Several years ago I visited the Daniels' home and viewed their entire collection, which was an amazing visit - and over the years, I've bought several John R. Neill drawings from Kendra.
The one Neill drawing being auctioned (shown above) was an illustration used as a color plate in Tik-Tok of Oz, showing the arrival of Betsy Bobbin and Hank the Mule in Oz. This particular piece was watercolored after it was used for publication, matching the appearance of the printed color plate. This piece ended up selling for $13,750.00 - needless to say, it's not in my collection! But what a fun drawing to have!
I know of a couple other examples of Tik-Tok color plate drawings that were watercolored in a similar fashion. The example shown on the left (which seems to be unfinished in terms of color, or possibly rather faded) was sold by Heritage Auctions a couple years ago, and another one remains in the Daniels' collection. These pieces are interesting and unusual - for most of the Oz books, the color plates were simply black and white drawings which then had color added by the printer. Neill created suites of finished watercolor illustrations for only two books - Dorothy and the Wizard, and Emerald City. One theory about these Tik-Tok pieces is that the original drawings were colored to be used for display purposes - it's unclear as to who actually did the coloring, whether Neill or someone else at the publisher's.
The items being sold were only a portion of the Daniels' collection. Kendra has two other wonderful Neill pieces - the first is a full page drawing from The Road to Oz, featuring the Scoodlers surrounding Dorothy and friends with the hopes of turning them into soup. The second piece is another Tik-Tok color plate drawing, this one showing Betsy sleeping while Erma, the Queen of Light, and Polychrome watch over her. This is a stunning piece, and has also been very nicely watercolored.
There were a few W. W. Denslow drawings from The Pearl and the Pumpkin - one full page plate and several text drawings, as well as a wide variety of pieces from many of the classic illustrators. The amazing thing about this auction is that these are the pieces that were let go - there are even better ones remaining in the collection!