Ten rare original colour illustrations produced by the Irish artist Harry Clarke for a deluxe edition of Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales which survived the London Blitz because they were taken to the United States are to go on sale for the first time in more than 80 years in a remarkable exhibition at The Fine Art Society from 4 June to 3 July 2008. The startlingly beautiful pictures from the golden age of book illustration have been in a private collection in the United States for decades and have been exhibited publicly only once since the 1920s.
Clarke drew 40 full-page illustrations for the lavish, vellum-bound limited edition of just 125 copies of Andersen's children's classic of which 16 were in colour. Most of these were destroyed when the London offices of the British publisher George Harrap & Co were bombed during the Second World War.
However some survived because they had been taken to the United States. Clarke himself wrote that in 1925 Brentano's, Harrap's publishing partners in New York, took "my originals for Hans Andersen... and they were shown in their bookshop in Fifth Avenue." It is also known that Byrne Hackett, owner of the Brick Row Bookshop in New York, used to buy and exhibit the Irishman's original work.
It is not clear whether the ten pictures to be exhibited by The Fine Art Society were sold by Brentano's or by Hackett but they passed into the hands of American collectors during the late 1920s. Since then they have only been seen once in public in an exhibition in a little-known museum in Kentucky in the mid-1990s and have survived in perfect condition. Only two other original Clarke colour illustrations for Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales have appeared on the market in recent years.
Maybe we should make a bid instead of trying to buy a house... we have been well and truly gazumped, though our ex vendor has offered to make a contribution to our lost costs. We're maybe going to see another house on that same street today, if I can get hold of Clare...
Paul Clarke's blog - I live in Hythe in Kent. Wed + dad to two, I'm a full-stack web developr, + I do mostly js / Node, some ruby, python, php ect ect. I like pubbing, parkrun, eating, home automation + other diy jiggery-pokery, history, genealogy, TV, squirrels, pirates, lego, + TIME TRAVEL.