The Charles Martignette collection of American Illustration Art

Charles Martignette

Charles Martignette

My wife and I first met Charles Martignette in the 1970s, when we traveled to Miami Beach to exhibit at the big Miami Beach Convention Center Show.  He came into our booth because we had a few American illustration paintings for sale.  At the time, American illustration art was not very popular.  It wasn’t recognized yet as the art form it is today.  I was attracted to it very early  and always tried to have a few paintings for sale.  Charles invited us to his warehouse where he had already started to assemble a formidable collection.  It was quite an experience seeing all the paintings stacked on shelves and in crates.  I wish I had been able to do more business with him, but I always found his prices to be just a little out of range.  Too bad I didn’t have the foresight to buy and hold some of his paintings, but as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.

The next year, Charles bought Norcross’ entire collection of 90,000 original illustrations for their greeting cards.  He convinced us to buy several hundred of them for $3000.  He was a smooth talker and a very good salesman and unfortunately I fell for it.  It was a lot of money for us in the 1970s and selling them turned out to be tough.  I think I’ve still got quite a few stashed away someplace.  After that, our opinion of Charles soured and we did very little business.   Each year when we returned to Miami, he would come into our booth, as friendly as could be, but we kept him at arm’s length.

Gil Elvgren

Gil Elvgren, A Near Miss (Right on Target)

In the meantime, Charles was putting together the finest collection of American illustration art ever assembled.  He was passionate and had a one-track mind. Ultimately he amassed a collection of thousands of paintings, stored in multiple warehouses.  He had an eye for the best and collected works by Rolf Armstrong, Earl Moran, Alberto Vargas, J.C. Leyendecker, Gil Elvgren, N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn and Norman Rockwell, to name just a few.

Unfortunately, Charles died young and suddenly at age 57 in 2008.  I found out by reading the obituaries in The Newtown Bee.  I was shocked and saddened by the news.

What would become of his fabulous collection?  His family inherited the collection and chose to sell it to a group of investors.  They, in turn, have decided to sell the entire collection at auction at Heritage Galleries, the Dallas auction house.  Heritage is a growing auction house, specializing in coins, but expanding into many other categories, including American illustration art.  The collection is so vast, that Heritage has decided to divide it up into six sessions over the next few years.  Session I, called the Glamour & Pop Art Signature Auction #7015, just took place in July, with great results.  More on the results in a subsequent post.

Please send me your suggestions or questions about art glass, lamps, Louis Icart, shows, auctions, etc.  If it’s interesting, I’ll answer your question in a future blog entry.

Call or write and let me know what you would like to buy, sell, or trade.  philchasen@gmail or 516-922-2090.  And please visit my website.

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