DALLAS – On Oct. 4, Heritage Auctions’ Illustration Art Signature® Auction realized $2.18 million, toplined by the world-record sale of a Marlon Brando painting made for Apocalypse Now by the father of the modern movie poster.
Science fiction and fantasy masterpieces from the Gary Munson Collection shattered numerous auction records, among them works by James Allen St. John, Robert Gibson Jones and Lee Browne Coye. There were strong prices across the board, too, for pulp and paperback, pin-up and Golden Age Illustration.
The cover of the auction’s catalog – Robert Peak’s Brando as Col. Kurtz, one of three posters made for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Apocalypse Now – sold for $212,500, shattering the artist’s previous auction record. It’s little wonder this work is now peak Peak: It shows Brando alone, water and sweat pouring off a shaved head that looks sculpted of wet clay, and serves as visual snapshot of the film’s most potent scene, as Kurtz confronts Martin Sheen’s Willard about his mission and intention.
“This image of Brando coming out of the darkness has become iconic,” says the artist’s son, Roberto Santo. Never more so than now.
Two James Allen St. John paintings that served as classic Edgar Rice Burroughs dust jackets likewise flew off the figurative shelves Monday: The Chessmen of Mars and At the Earth’s Core, each from 1922 and each from the acclaimed assemblage of renowned illustration art collector Gary Munson, whose landmark rare-book collection heads to auction later this month.The two St. John covers each sold for $150,000, well above pre-auction estimates.
A trio of Gil Elvgren’s iconic pin-up girls, each painted for a calendar, rounded out the auction’s top six lots: 1960’s A Weighty Problem sold for $87,500; 1963’s Measuring Up realized $68,750; and 1969’s Squirrely Situation sold for $65,625.
James Avati, so renowned as a maker of paperback covers there’s a book devoted to his work, set a new auction record Monday when his cover for Christopher Isherwood’s 1952 novel Goodbye to Berlin brought $27,500. One of pulp and horror maker Lee Brown Coye’s most famous covers – The Vampire, which in July 1947 scared the hell out of readers of Weird Tales – likewise set a new auction record for the artist when it sold Monday for $25,000.
And Robert Gibson Jones’ haunting I Remember Lemuria, an amazing entry from the March 1945 cover of Amazing Stories, shattered the painters’ previous auction record when it sold for $21,250. No wonder this work has become the artist’s most valuable work to date, as it has made the rounds in recent years, appearing on the cover of Richard Silver’s 2011 The Shaver Mystery by Richard Shaver and inside such books as 2000’s The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines, 2002’s Art of Imagination: 20th Century Visions of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy and 2017’s The Art of the Pulps: An Illustrated History.
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