The original fine-lined drawing that has graced the iconic cover of “Charlotte’s Web” since the beloved children’s book was released almost 60 years ago sold at Heritage auctioneers‘ new Park Avenue location on Friday for $155,000, over six times more than its presale estimate of $25,000.
In addition to the “Signature Illustration Art Auction”‘s particularly high-earning drawing, which depicts the pony-tailed Fern Arable holding Wilbur the pig just after his climactic slaughterhouse dodging, the event sold an additional 41 graphite-and-ink drawings that convey — along similar lines — a variety of quaint farm scenes, Wilbur at the county fair, and, of course, Charlotte the heroic spider. The illustrations earned more than $780,000 collectively.
The book’s illustrator, Garth Williams, wielded among the the most familiar pens behind children’s books, having fleshed out characters and scenes from such bestselling works as “Stuart Little” (also by E.B. White), and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series. His trademark style is best characterized by softness and comforting simplicity. As Heritage noted in their press release, Williams “drew few straight lines” throughout his career.
Barry Sandoval, director of operations at Heritage, said in a statement that “there are few people born after 1950, maybe even 1940, who are not intimately familiar with [the]timeless story,” which author Eudora Welty — no soft touch — declared to be “just about perfect.” And indeed a 2002 issue of Publisher’s Weekly pegged “Charlotte’s Web” as the best-selling children’s paperback of all time. And Williams’ drawings — delicate they may be — have been the charming face of this treasured tale.