A piece of Robert Crumb artwork featuring his iconic character Fritz the Cat has set a new world record price at auction.
The cover artwork from a 1969 comic strip album sold at Heritage Auctions in New York for $717,000, making it the most valuable piece of American comic book artwork ever sold.
Crumb’s original drawing had initially been expected to sell for $150,000 – $250,000.
The Heritage Auctions sale also included two further important works by Crumb: a four-page story entitled ‘The Confessions of R. Crumb’ and the one-page strip ‘Keep on Truckin”, both published in 1972.
Both lots fetched final prices of $191,200, establishing a joint-record for the second-most valuable Crumb works ever sold.
“Artworks from Underground Comix – especially from masters such as Robert Crumb – are becoming recognized in the fine art world as cultural cornerstones,” said Barry Sandoval, Director of Comic Operations at Heritage Auctions. “Three of the top four lots in the auction were by Crumb.”
The character of Fritz the Cat first appeared in childhood comic books drawn by Crumb and his brother Robert, before making his public debut in 1965 in an issue of the satirical magazine Help!
Crumb also drew strips for the erotic publication Cavalier, and Fritz quickly became an unlikely symbol of 60s counterculture.
Although Crumb ceased drawing Fritz in 1969, his previously unpublished strips appeared in several magazines, making him one of the most popular characters in the underground Comix scene.
Fritz the Cat later starred in two animated features, which were hugely successful despite a lack of involvement from Crumb himself.
The previous record for any US comic art had stood since 2014, when a page of Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel’s artwork from The Incredible Hulk #180, featuring the first-ever appearance of Wolverine, sold at Heritage for $657,250.