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The Angel [Andersen's Fairy Tales]
ORIGINAL ART. New York, 1945. Touching illustration of a child flying to heaven in the arms of a strong, compassionate angel.
The Angel is one of Szyk's most poignant illustrations for Andersen's Fairy Tales. The Angel tells the tragic story of a child who dies and is flown to heaven in the care of glorious angel who must retrace the footsteps the child trod on earth as a final remembrance before leaving. When the child asks to take a beautiful rose bush “to bloom in heaven”, the angel makes a detour to tell the story of another child who also loved beautiful flowers… when he was still alive. The face of the little boy is peaceful and unafraid, a baby's face just before sleep; but the angel's countenance contains a deeper, complex emotion. There resides the unmistakable solemn dignity that Szyk used often to illustrate the faces of the innocents who perished during the Holocaust. This drawing is a tender blend of beauty and sorrow that may serve as a brilliant visual image of Judeo-Christian faith.
The life work of Arthur Szyk can be seen as a unique trinity of styles comprised of miniature illumination, political caricatures, and fantasy or children's work. This latter category reveals a magically winsome, innocent side of Arthur Szyk that is so antipodal to his seething political drawings. The snakes, dragons, sea serpents and spiders painted for certain of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales are distinguishable from the monsters of Szyk's political work by their eyes…they are round and bright, childlike still.
The Angel. Original illustration for Andersen's Fairy Tales, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1945. Original pen and ink and pencil on paper. Measures 7 inches x 5 1/2 inches. SIGNED and dated “Arthur Szyk N.Y. '45”.
Rarity: Andersen's Fairy Tales was not the only book Szyk produced for children (his Pathways Though the Bible, for example, has been read by millions). It is, however, the only full volume displaying this big-eyed, rosy-cheeked style. His designs for Christmas cards and other holiday greetings were never mass-produced or gathered into any complete portfolio. These soft, youthful portrayals are among the most rare of Szyk's work.
Publishing History: Andersen's Fairy Tales. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1945.
Provenance: Original Book Illustrations and Cartoons by the Late Arthur Szyk [1894-1951]. Mrs. Arthur Szyk Sale. Parke-Bernet Galleries. New York. November 24, 1961. Lot 10.