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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 10/16/2010

'CHARLOTTE'S WEB' cover art snares $155K at auction

By Michael Cavna

webwhite.jpg(Courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

That's some radiant sales price.

Heritage Auctions had expected the original cover art for 1952's "Charlotte's Web" to fetch about $30,000. Instead, the iconic illustration for E.B. White's classic children's story has snared more than five times that amount, the Manhattan auction house said.

Garth Williams's graphite-and-ink cover art drew a winning bid of more than $155,000 at auction Friday, the Heritage house said.

Heritage spokesman Barry Sandoval told the Associated Press that the cover's buyer -- a New York collector -- preferred to remain anonymous. In all, 42 of Williams's original illustrations sold for more than $780,000 combined, Heritage said.

The tenderly rendered cover art is a sublime thing. The fine-lined 11x14 image features farmgirl Fern Arable clutching Wilbur the saved-from-slaughter pig, as the literate arachnid Charlotte spins her magic above the livestock. On the original can also be seen handwritten production marks.

Fiona, the eldest of Williams's five daughters, was said to be his model for Fern Arable.


In 2000, Publisher's Weekly named "Charlotte's Web" the best-selling children's paperback ever. Prior to the sale, Heritage said the book's same cover image has been used for 58 years,

This was the first time the Williams's family had put the art up for sale; Williams died in 1996

Born to a father who cartooned for Punch and a landscape-painter mother, Williams studied at the Westminster School of Art in London. His first teaming with White was 1945's "Stuart Little." Over his long career, the American artist also illustrated books for such children's authors as Laura Ingalls Wilders, George Selden and Margaret Wise Brown.

By Michael Cavna  | October 16, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  General  | Tags:  Charlotte's Web, E.B White, Garth Williams, Heritage Auctions  
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