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Extraordinary 1946 Willard Mullin Original "Brooklyn Bum" Color Artwork
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $2,015
In the realm of Willard Mullin original artworks, especially among those ideal original artworks featuring his trademark "Brooklyn Bum," few approach this remarkable example. Originally published in the July 8, 1946, issue of the New York World-Telegram, the artwork pictures the iconic "Brooklyn Bum" singing a fanciful tune about heading to that baseball heaven known as the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" (more commonly known as the World Series). Both the appeal and rarity of this piece lie in the fact that Mullin has incorporated color elements into his usual black-and-white graphics. This is the first color artwork by Mullin we have ever seen for a piece created specifically for newspaper publication. The reason for the distinctive embellishments are almost certainly related to the fact that Mullin envisioned it as a special presentation piece. Located directly below Mullin's signature at the base is the printed inscription "To Th' Best Tenant I Ever Hopet' Have - Uncle Karl." Although there is no additional documentation accompanying the piece, we strongly believe the "Uncle Karl" referenced here is famed cartoonist Karl Hubenthal, who was Mullin's protégé and lifelong friend. (This artwork was purchased by our consignor at auction in 2009, at which time the auction house described it as a presentation piece to Hubenthal.) According to the official Karl Hubenthal website, the relationship between Mullin and Hubenthal was that of mentor and student:
While a student at Hollywood High School in 1934, Hubenthal first met Willard Mullin, the long reputed "Dean of Sports Cartooning."...So it's no surprise that when Mullin took the talented youngster under his wing, more than a little Mullin rubbed off on Hubenthal. Throughout his life, Hubenthal affectionately referred to Mullin as "Uncle Will", and Mullin respected the younger cartoonist's work so much that he once said "your stuff looks like mine on a good day!"
Mullin's use of the term "Uncle Karl" here was no doubt an endearing play on Hubenthal's avuncular characterization of their close relationship. Accompanying the piece is an original newspaper clipping from the July 8, 1946, New York World-Telegram featuring this very artwork. The "Bum" certainly had reason for optimism on that day, as the Dodgers held a five-game lead in the standings. Unfortunately, the club's journey to the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" in 1946 would once again have to "Wait Til Next Year" after they lost the pennant to the Cardinals on the final day of the season. The artwork (14.5 x 16.5 inches; image area) displays typical editorial markings and shading; otherwise in apparent Excellent to Mint condition. It has been triple matted and framed to total dimensions of 25 x 27 inches. This is an extraordinary Mullin original artwork in all respects: unique for its use of color, desirable for its depiction of the legendary "Brooklyn Bum," and definitive for its exact dating, which is rare for such a piece. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,000+. SOLD FOR $2,015
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