1913 Original The Saturday Evening Post Cover Artwork by Charles MacLellan
Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $14,100
Original oil-on-canvas painting by noted artist Charles A. MacLellan used as the cover illustration for the September 13, 1913, edition of The Saturday Evening Post. Signed and dated (1912) by MacLellan in the lower right corner. Original The Saturday Evening Post cover paintings are extremely rare and highly prized. Most which survive reside in museums or in one of the world's most important private or institutional collections of American illustration art. An early cover such as this, by one of the most prolific of all Post cover artists, is a particularly rare and special find. This painting is what classic American illustration art is all about. One does not have to be an art expert or scholar to appreciate the quality of execution, the strong positive emotional impact, and the sense of innocent American nostalgia evoked by this painting. This is a museum-caliber example of classic American illustration art, a dream piece rarely seen outside of a museum setting, dating from the heart of the Golden Age of Illustration Art.
Charles A. MacLellan (1885-?) was a contemporary of Norman Rockwell who quickly became well known to readers of The Saturday Evening Post by virtue of his numerous and memorable cover illustrations. Born in Ontario, Canada, MacLellan began his formal studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and finished them under the tutelage of the legendary Howard Pyle in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. MacLellan eventually settled in Delaware where he began a highly successful illustration career that lasted through the first half of the twentieth century. MacLellan is best known today by virtue of his many illustrations featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Between the years 1913 and 1936 MacLellan's work appeared on forty-four Saturday Evening Post covers, making him one of the most prolific Post cover illustrators of his day. MacLellan specialized in the female form and nearly all of his cover illustrations feature a woman as the central, and often only, subject. The offered painting is no exception as it depicts a typical Sunday School scenario of the day. A young woman, prim and proper, sits with a Bible in her lap and a Sunday School lesson in hand as she attempts to teach the Gospel to two young boys, one of whom is clearly not interested. This was the fourth of MacLellan's six Post cover illustrations in 1913 and his eighth overall. We do not know how many Charles MacLellan original Post cover artworks have survived the ages, but this is the first we have ever seen.
The Saturday Evening Post covers hold a special place in the collective consciousness of America. These are the covers that capture the spirit of America's cultural identity. For an artist, a Post cover piece not only afforded maximum exposure, but also conveyed his or her elite status within the illustration field. The Post was the first national magazine to reach a weekly subscription of three million, and by 1959 its circulation had grown to over six million. This was the magazine of the American people. Today, the fame of many of those artists, such as Norman Rockwell (the most popular and prolific of all Post contributors, with 323 cover illustrations to his credit), J. C. Leyendecker, and Stephan Dohanos, is largely predicated upon their many memorable Post cover illustrations. Original Post cover artworks are rarely offered for public sale and those of this vintage are even more elusive. In years past we have sold paintings by Norman Rockwell, J. C. Leyendecker, and Stephan Dohanos, among others. This is the first we have ever handled by Charles MacLellan and it is a superlative example. The painting, executed in oil on canvas, measures 20 x 24 inches and displays moderate-to-heavy crazing throughout (common for oil paintings of this age that have been left untreated). A few light editorial notations, rendered in pencil, are visible along the base of the painting. Professionally conserved in 1995 for ideal preservation (copy of report accompanies and is provided online). Framed to total dimensions of 23.25 x 27.5 inches. Accompanied by a tear sheet of the original cover for the September 13, 1913, issue of The Saturday Evening Post that features this painting. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).
SOLD FOR $14,100