A few thoughts on original art by Frank Godwin . . .

This post was originally published on February 21, 2012.  I have revised it quite heavily, and I have decided to post it “anew.”

I have not done a close study of the subject, but it seems to me that Frank Godwin must have been one of the most prolific artists of his era.  He produced over twenty years of comic strip art, daily and Sunday, and that alone would be over 7,000 works.  That is in addition to the great quantity and variety of other illustrations, including many elaborate works, which he produced.  Original works by Frank Godwin — especially comic-strip art — have tended to come up for sale with some frequency, but in some ways, it is a wonder that one does not see even more original art by Godwin for sale.

Back in the early 1970s, when I first became interested in Frank Godwin, there was no eBay.  I believe that the first original Godwin art I ever saw offered was advertised in The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom, back in early 1977.  It was an oil painting with a “Robin Hood” (or similar) theme.  That dealer, who I believe was selling the painting on consignment, also had two other Godwin oil paintings for sale (one of which had already sold).

Probably not too long after that, I believe a Godwin watercolor (of a cock-fight) and a pen-and-ink drawing by Godwin were listed in one of Joe Parente’s catalogs.  I purchased the pen-and-ink, which I still have — it is the subject of the YouTube video mentioned in the preceding post.  I still have the catalog somewhere, and if I run across it, I may provide a little further information about it.

One of the main sources of Godwin illustrations, for many years, has been Illustration House, in New York.  They have sold quite a bit of Godwin art at auction and in regular retail sales.  I have bought a number of items from them.  I also have failed to acquire a number of items there!  Possibly the nicest Godwin item they have ever offered (as far as I know) is the oil painting that was reproduced on the cover of The Book of Courage.  I do not know who won that auction.

Some years ago — I forget exactly when, but I imagine it was about ten years ago, I acquired the Godwin oil painting that was used in many Winston printings of The Swiss Family Robinson.  I believe it was the person who sold that to me who told me about a few other Godwin paintings.  He — or someone — told me that two of Godwin’s paintings for Henry Gilbert’s Robin Hood had been donated (by whom, I do not know) to a library, but that the paintings disappeared.

Speaking of Robin Hood, two Godwin paintings from that book were auctioned off by an auction house in the east, I think somewhat over ten years ago.  One of them was somewhat damaged.  I don’t remember their exact dimensions, but they were huge, and by “huge,” I mean that they were probably four feet or more in height.  They were very nice paintings, including one of the famous archery competition which Robin attended in disguise.  I suspect that painting may be the best of the Godwin paintings I have ever seen offered for sale — not having been able to examine the painting, I cannot say for certain.  I was in phone contact with the auction house while the two works were being auctioned, hoping to bid, but the bidding quickly went out of my reach.  (I forget what the final price was.)

Heritage Auctions has also sold a number of very nice Godwin items over a period of some years, including comic art and regular illustrations.

Russ Cochran has also offered a number of Godwin items for sale.  He has actually offered at auction the original art for two different Connie Sunday strips — extremely nice examples from late in the strip’s run.  I know that one of them went unsold — that auction occurred before I learned of it.  The art later turned up on eBay, where I was the high bidder, but the reserve was not met.  Russ also offered a sample strip for the proposed Billy West strip, which Russ did not sell, and which I was later able to purchase through the agent of the owner.

I remember once I wrote to Russ, asking if he had any Frank Godwin material, and he said that all he had at the time was a (very nice) Rusty Riley daily, I think from 1948 or 1949.  The price was I believe $150, but to me, at the time, that was too high.  Of course, that was many years ago, probably in the late 1970s or so, and that was a great deal of money at the time (compared to today).

There is at least one large piece of a Connie Sunday that is known to exist, and I think there may be another chunk of a Sunday as well.  I believe that one or both were posted on Art Lortie’s old Connie website.  One of those Connie chunks was sold on eBay, and I think I actually bid on it, but did not bid enough to win the auction.

The art for a Connie daily is now posted on the comicartfans.com website.  I think that is the only “confirmed” Connie daily original art I know of.  One or two dealers indicated to me rather vaguely that there was one for sale, but I was not able to track it down.  (This was more than ten years ago.) I believe that Bruce Bergstrom told me that an unfinished Connie daily also exists.  But there is no doubt about it:  original Connie art is almost never seen for sale.

There is a fairly well-known large, beautiful drawing of Connie’s head, which I believe was on eBay several years ago.  It is a great item, but my problem with it was that it does not say “Connie” anywhere on the art, and I have never seen it published in a context that shows that it portrays Connie.  It definitely “looks” like Connie, but that wasn’t good enough for me, and that was why I did not bid on it.

I think I have heard of one or two Roy Powers strips (original art) for sale — I think I have heard of two different dealers selling such art, but it may have been the same strip.  At one time I was keenly interested in obtaining a piece of Roy Powers art, but as of now I have largely gotten over that.  It certainly does not have the cachet that Connie art has — even though from the standpoint of scarcity they appear to be in the same category.

I hope to continue talking about this topic in the future.

—Tom Sawyer

February 21, 2012 (original publication date).

October 16, 2013 (publication date of revision).

November 6, 2013 (slightly revised).

(About 1149 words.)

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