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AUCTION 22

 

Valentines, Drawings & Photographs of Illustrator Reginald B. Birch


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48.     BIRCH, Reginald Bathurst. Small archive of art work and personal material by and about artist Birch. The archive was in the possession of Birch’s son, Rodney B. Birch, an early film actor in Hollywood. Rodney’s friend to whom he gave the archive has more information on Birch and his family, which she is willing to share with the buyer of the archive. Condition varies.

     Reginald Bathurst Birch (1856-1943) was born in England but moved to San Francisco, California, in 1870, where he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. After being introduced to art in San Francisco, he eventually studied in Europe, returning to New York where he worked as a magazine illustrator. His most famous illustrations appeared in Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886). Although demand for his work faded, his career was revived in the 1930s because of his illustrations in various books. He is sometimes referred to as “The Children’s Gibson” because of the large number of children’s stories he illustrated for St. Nicholas magazine. He illustrated over two hundred books.

VALENTINES

Five original whimsical Valentines from Birch to his wife, with ink calligraphy and pen and watercolor illustrations, on card stock, undated, except one in 1916. The Valentines are in very good condition, except the last one, which has a small stain affecting image and edge damage. These Valentines are not your ordinary Hallmark sentiments, possessing as they do a certain deep, if not dark, timbre. The illustrations are truly charming, and this is one instance in which the adjective is used sincerely.

THE RICH! I DO NOT ENVY THEM…. A happy bunny boy walks with a pretty little girl, as two birds in a tree sing joyously:

     The rich! I do not envy them.

     Indeed why should I care?

     While I possess a treasure,

     In which they cannot share.

     For Babbie has a heart of gold,

     And gives it all to me

     Diamonds bright in troubled times

     Are her tears of sympathy.

     So, though I wear a tattered coat

     Dear wife, and sweetheart mine-

     I’m richer than a millionaire

     When you’re my Valentine.

WHEN LIGHT ABOUNDS…. An innocent baby boy in the personification of Care approaches with a lantern and reaping hook, preceded by an owl, against a dark, cloudy background with bats flying.

     When light abounds

     And Joy’s abroad,

     If Babbie cares to roam,

     Why should I voice the selfish wish

     That bids her stay at home!!

     But when it’s dark

     And Care appears,

     Then let the right be mine

     To light her path with constant flame,

     A faithful Valentine.

’TIS SAD TO GROW OLD… In a snowscape a pretty little girl cherub and a bunny boy hover to keep warm by a flaming heart.

     ’Tis sad to grow old.

     To find Babbie cold,

     And not have the money to warm her.

     She could crouch by the fire

     Of my great heart’s desire.

     Good St. Valentine, pray so inform her!!

OH! BABBIE WHEN YOU’RE PLEASED TO BE…. A little cherub perches on the bodice of a beautiful angel in a low-cut gown, below is a heart pierced with an arrow.

     Oh! Babbie when you’re pleased to be

     So very very nice to me,

     You’re like an angel come to earth!

     And then I bless my happy birth.

     But Babbie when you are unkind,

     I promptly get a change of mind-

     And fancy you must come from-well-

     A place I’d hardly like to tell

     But fay or fiend, I love you dear

     By day, by night, both far and near-

     So Babbie! may your heart incline

     To be my lasting Valentine!

THE DAY DRAWS TO ITS CLOSE…. A sign post has one side pointing toward Youth and the other side pointing toward Age. An old man with a heavy burden on his back and a staff in his hand walks with a stoop in a barren landscape toward a sunset in the direction of Age. A nude cherub runs in the direction of Youth. Dated 1916 on verso.

     The day draws to its close

     The journey nears its end

     I struggle on alone

     For I have lost my friend.

     I missed you at the turning,

     Did you desert me then,

     And leave me helpless, hopeless

     The unhappiest of men?

     Or will you meet me later

     When Heaven’s glories shine,

     And find me waiting patiently

     A faithful Valentine.

ORIGINAL SKETCHES

DUCKLINGS. Pen and ink sketch of a barnyard scene with Mother Duck and ducklings in water in foreground, while chickens look on in the background. Noted at lower left in ink: “Original by my father.”

CHERUB WITH BLACK BIRD. Small pen, ink, and watercolor drawing of cherub playing saxophone and dancing with black bird. Excellent image.

Plus five additional, pencil and pen and ink, sketches identified as being by Birch in his son’s handwriting. Includes some sketches done at an art academy in Munich.

PHOTOGRAPHS

BIRCH, FAMILY & FRIENDS. Thirty photographs of Reginald B. Birch and his family and friends, and interior shots, dating from the early twentieth century to the 1940s, both candid and professional shots. Subjects comprise several professional shots of Birch at work, including one photograph of his drawing of the first Little Lord Fauntleroy and another of his illustration for Orson Welles “The Wonder Show” with ink note on verso that Welles still owes him $200 and a later note by his son concerning collecting his father’s debts after his death. One image still in an old scrap book is of Birch’s son Rodney sitting in a chair in a richly adorned room dressed as in a style not unlike that of Little Lord Fauntleroy (taken in the castle in Germany where Birch lived in the early years of the twentieth century), eight interior shots (presumably of Birch’s home); and several amateur shots of him and his family.

PRINTED MATERIAL

Six books, most illustrated by Birch and with his son’s notes at front (mostly presentations). Rough condition. Six dust jackets with Birch’s illustrations (chipped), including one for Little Lord Fauntleroy. Numerous newspaper clippings and ephemera. Invitation from the Brick Row Book Shop in New York to an exhibition of drawings for Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Photocopies and reproductions of various Birch illustrations, including a sketchily done self portrait.

($2,500-5,000)

Sold. Hammer: $2,500.00; Price Realized: $3,000.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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