A pair of works by Playboy artist Patrick Nagel led the way in Dallas this week, as a Heritage Auctions sale of Illustration Art fetched over $1.6 million.
More than 400 lots crossed the block, featuring everything from pre-war pulp magazine covers to contemporary caricatures, alongside a wealth of original pin-up and sci-fi artwork from masters of the genres.
The sale’s highest prices were achieved by the two Nagel works Female in Profile, which sold for $87,500, and Seductive Portrait, which sold for $75,000.
Nagel made his name as a graphic designer and illustrator in the 1970s, and found success with his distinctive female illustrations for Playboy Magazine which became known simply as "Nagel women". He sadly passed away in 1984 at the age of just 38, and today his original artworks are highly sought-after by collectors.
There were strong results for the master of pin-up art Gil Elvgren, with notable lots including the 1960 painting Roxanne which sold for $68,750; the 1961 Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration Charming (Charming Trick), which sold for $62,500; and the 1957 painting Ticklish Situation, which sold for $60,000.
The auction also offered several dramatic works by artist Norman Saunders, swiped directly from the covers of detective magazines from the 1930s and 40s.
Notable examples included Enigma of the Talkative Wraith, from the May 1942 cover of 10 Story Detective, which sold for $28,750; The Corpse that Murdered, from the June 1938 cover of Secret Agent X, which fetched $25,000; Dictator of the Damned, from the October 1939 cover of Variety Detective, which realized $21,250; and Reunion with Death, from the April 1938 cover of Ten Detective Aces, which sold for $16,250.
"The demand for Pre-War Illustration art is very high right now and it was wonderful to see early pulp cover art double and triple pre-auction expectations," said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President at Heritage Auctions. "Of course, pin-up art by master artists remain solid sellers."
Elsewhere the auction featured artworks by renowned sporting artist LeRoy Neiman, pin-up artist Alberto Vargas, iconic sci-fi artist Howard V. Brown, and the celebrated cartoonist Al Hirschfeld.