Set the wayback machine to 1991. I had recently visited Howard Lowery's auction gallery shop in Burbank for the very first time, and I discovered this amazing book that had been published 5 years previously. The original Carroll "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", but with amazing illustrations from the Disney archives by a gentleman named David Hall, and an afterword by Brian Sibley that detailed his history with the studio and the story of this art. I was totally blown away.
Having only been collecting Alice for about two years at this point, I was not familiar with this artist, but I soon discovered that he had made another appearance over the years: The book Surprise Package
, published in 1943, was chock full of David Hall art in the Alice story, which I've previously posted about here
, and here
It was at this point that I developed a fairly intense obsession with acquiring an original David Hall, and being the compulsive individual that I am, I managed over the course of about 20 years to acquire seven original illustrations, all from the Surprise Package
book. But they were all black and white. I had never seen a color David Hall 'in the wild'. In the past few years I have seen one or two color David Hall paintings, but mostly from Peter Pan, although I did see one Alice study in a private collection.
Flash forward to about two months ago. I came across a very brief description of a piece of art in an upcoming auction that piqued my interest. I had never heard of the auction house in question, but I went to their site and discovered that they are a fine art auction house (you know, 'real' art). But this upcoming auction had one lot described as follows:
David G. Hall Jr.
(American, 20th century)
Alice in Wonderland,
watercolor on paper
signed David Hall
10 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches.
Property from the Ralph Esmerian Collection, New York, New York
So I emailed requesting images and a condition report. OMFG. This is what they sent me.
This was an original Disney David Hall watercolor, which had been published in both Surprise Package
and in the aforementioned 1986 Alice book from the studio. I couldn't believe my eyes! Where did this come from? I thought that all the illustrations in the studio book were a part of the Disney archive. Until I looked more closely at those printed pages.
In Surprise Package
, the image is fairly severely cropped, I guess to show more character and less background. Then when I looked at the studio book, I realized that they had merely scanned the Surprise package illustration, as it is the same crop and the quality of the image is nowhere near as crisp as most of the other images. This was indeed the original art sent to Simon and Schuster for inclusion in Surprise Package
. This lends more evidence to my long-standing suspicion that all the extant David Hall Alice art (with one or two exceptions) comes from the batch of illustrations supplied for Surprise Package
So, now I knew this was the real deal, and based on the (ridiculously low) estimate provided in the auction description, it was within my reach. But only if no one else who really understood what it was became aware of the auction. In the past I have publicized upcoming auctions with Alice art, but in this case, I kept my mouth shut. I couldn't risk anyone figuring out what it was, and the auction house is obscure enough in Disney circles that it seemed unlikely that Disney art collectors would stumble across it. So I kept my secret for nearly two months.
Now it is December 11th, and the auction is upon me. I'm sitting at my computer screen, with my wife cheering me on, and the auction begins. It is fairly near the middle of the auction so we've got time to wait, and we talk about limits, and have fun looking at what other people are buying. And then the lot comes up, and my absentee bid is the high bid. Two more people bid, then I bid again, and then a very long pause. My wife is screaming at the computer "Close it! Close it!". And . . .
I WON!!! I couldn't believe my insane luck, and I'm sure my friends in Los Angeles could hear me screaming from here in DC. So, now all I had to do was wait for it to arrive.
Which it did yesterday! Computer Girl is back from grad school in Glasgow for the Christmas holidays, and photo documented the arrival and unveiling, which I now share with you here. Merry Christmas to me!
|Doorbell rings, it's FedEx!|