Five books with added art appeal thanks to the famous artists who illustrated them

From fairy tales to Greek plays, some of the world’s most famous artists have lent their talent to literary special editions. We take a look inside five unexpected, charming and sought-after collaborations.

Five books with added art appeal thanks to the famous artists who illustrated them

 

His work may have sold for over $100m, but there is a way to own your own little piece of Warhol for the price of a few cans of soup. Before he was the iconic innovator of Pop Art, Warhol was a graphic designer and freelance illustrator. Between 1957 and 1959, he illustrated six stories for Best in Children’s Books, published by Doubleday Book Club. The most notable of these is The Little Red Hen, with Warhol’s cheerfully colourful illustrations showing the industrious hen and a cast of other farmyard characters.

Andy Warhol, The Little Red Hen (1958)

Image source: https://culturacolectiva.com/art/children-books-great-artists/

These child-friendly drawings bear little resemblance to his iconic works of the 1960s, and are a world away from the macabre Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), his most expensive work to date, which sold for $105.4m in 2013. However, his association with children’s books didn’t end when he moved on to celebrity screen prints and scenes of death and disaster. His drawings of a fashion-conscious reptile, Noa the Boa, from the 60s, were published in The Autobiography of the Snake in 2016, and he produced Andy Warhol’s Children’s Book in 1983.

David Hockney, Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (1970)

Image source: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1907533249/?tag=thecultri-20

The 60s weren’t just about the swimming pools and palm trees of California for David Hockney. Throughout the decade he created series of etchings, culminating in 39 pieces for a book of Grimm’s fairy tales. Hockney worked on the illustrations from May to November 1969, which were published in 1970. Hockney chose six stories – some well-known, some obscure – that intrigued him in their psychological strangeness. Of Rapunzel he said “…the stories really are quite mad, when you think of it, and quite strange.” Rather than illustrating the stories literally, Hockney picked out certain moments that evoke the mood of each tale. While fairy tale illustrations are usually colourful, portraying an often dark subject matter in a more cheery light, Hockney embraces the ugly and the unnerving in intricate black and white prints. The work is an excellent example of his printmaking skills, and the portfolio of 39 original etchings was sold by Christie’s in 2012 for £55,250. In the same year, The Royal Academy of Arts issued a reprint, so the little red-bound book is still widely available today.

Salvador Dalí, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1969)

Image source: http://hhhhappy.com/the-height-of-surrealism-alice-in-wonderland-illustrated-by-salvador-dali/

Who better to bring the surreal adventures of Alice in Wonderland to life than Mr Surrealism himself? Lewis Carroll’s beloved story has been paired with many illustrations – including the author’s own amateurish attempts to accompany the original text –  but none seem quite as fitting as Salvador Dali’s. In 1935, William Empson wrote “Alice has, I understand, become a patron saint of the Surrealists” and it’s easy to see why the ‘curiouser and curiouser’ world down the rabbit hole inspired a generation of artists exploring the unconscious. But it wasn’t until the late 60s that Random House commissioned Dali to illustrate one of his favourite books. Those who know Alice as a Disney golden girl surrounded by cute characters may find Dali’s vision a rude awakening. The 12 photogravures (one per chapter) are a dream-like riot of colour, as blurred as the altered reality of Wonderland. The original edition with Dali’s illustration is a rare, and much-coveted book but in 2015, marking Alice’s 150th birthday, Princeton University Press printed a new edition for the public.

Pablo Picasso, Lysistrata (1934)

Image source: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/10/25/picasso-lysistrata-1934/

In the 1930s, the Limited Editions Club re-issued classic works of literature with illustrations from some major contemporary artists. Pablo Picasso’s 1934 illustrated version of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is one of its most desirable editions. This Greek comedy is the tale of a woman who tries to end the Peloponnesian war by convincing the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers. A bawdy battle of the sexes in the hands of an artist whose treatment of women was ruthless, on canvas and in life…. the result is not what you might expect. Picasso’s illustrations are surprisingly tender. The simple line drawings are soft and sensual; an antidote to Aubrey Beardsley’s grotesquely erotic illustrations from the 1896 edition. A beautiful example of Picasso’s modernist sketches, in a run of only 1,500 copies, this book is a rare and much sought-after gem.

Henri Matisse, Ulysses (1935)
Image source: http://www.openculture.com/2016/10/henri-matisse-illustrates-james-joyces-ulysses-1935.html

How many people have actually read James Joyce’s Ulysses? I don’t just mean the first chapter, I’m talking about all 700-odd pages of the modernist masterpiece. Not Henri Matisse, it would seem. Publisher George Macy, who commissioned the limited edition with Matisse’s illustrations, sent the artist a French translation of the novel but there’s little evidence that he made much of a dent in it. Matisse was offered $5,000 to create six etchings for the 1935 edition but none of these etchings reference Joyce’s version of the odyssey, which centres around the events of a single day in Dublin in1904. Instead, Matisse’s etchings are based on the original story; Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, and feature characters such as Cyclops and Circe, rather than Leopold and Molly Bloom. Despite the mismatch between text and illustration, copies of this special edition are in high demand. As with the Picasso-illustrated version of Lysistrata, just 1,500 copies of the book were published by the Limited Editions Club. All copies were signed in pencil by Matisse, with only 250 of those also signed in ink by Joyce. In 2015, one of these double-signed copies, along with copies of the 20 preliminary sketches for the etchings, sold for £20,000 at a Bonham’s auction.

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