A week or so into December a friend of mine from England emailed me to inform me of an auction featuring an original drawing of Pauline Chase as Peter Pan. Going to that site I was full of trepidation on what to expect and doubtful that I could win such a drawing if I wanted it. Opening the page I found the following description:
R. G. M. (?) (20th century) A study of Pauline Chase, half-length, a dagger in her belt, coloured chalks, signed with initials and inscribed lower right 47 x 31 cm (18 1/2 x 12 1/4 in), unframed together with other drawings of theatrical characters provenance: the collection of the actor Alec Clunes.
The drawing, by R.G. Mathews, was one I quickly recognized as it was featured as a frontispiece from, Peter Pan; His Book, His Pictures, His career, His Friends; a small book retelling the stage version Peter Pan in story form from 1909 by Mills & Boon. Edited by G. D. Drennan, it featured photographs of the production starring Pauline Chase as well as other actresses who played Peter up to that time. The drawing was printed in stark black and white while the original was quite lovely with its subtle hues of pastels in a sketchy style. I wanted it!
My experience with auctions is limited at most. Dale, my partner, is much more savvy having attended and bid in auctions for work as well as himself. At first I did not want to show the auction site to him as I had promised I would stay away from Peter Pan related ephemera for the few months before Christmas. However, I finally relented, explaining to Dale that since my friend had written about the drawing to me there was no way I could ignore it. That would have been wrong. Dale looked at the drawing asking me if I knew anything more about it. “Yes indeedy,” I replied in my most cocky fashion. “I know the date and the artist’s name!” I showed him the book for which it was most likely created. “I had no idea it was originally drawn with colored pastels.”
“Well,” Dale said after a few minutes of reading the auction house conditions of sale, “the advantage is that the words ‘Peter Pan’ are nowhere stated in the description. Most people will not recognize the attire as that of Peter’s either. And since there are other drawings included in the lot, it could end up paying for itself should you choose to
sell the other drawings.” The lot was estimated at 100 pounds with a buyer’s premium of 25%. I would be responsible for arranging packing and posting from the United Kingdom to the USA. After carefully reading the info again and still further discussing it with Dale, I made a bid.
A week later Dale emailed me at work to let me know that I had won
the drawings. I was ecstatic when he told me they sold for exactly 100 pounds! I immediately emailed the auction house to make arrangements for payment as after two weeks they would charge for storage. Strangely, a week of emails from me did not produce any response (despite the fact that I had to register to participate in the auction with my email address). A week later I received a bill in the mail. As I was off from school for the beginning of the holiday vacation, I called the auction house and paid by my credit card. The receptionist gave me the name of a packer whom I immediately emailed. They, in turn, referred me to a local packing company in the same town as the auction company.
The packing company would pick up my drawings after the holidays which was going to be a week later. Meanwhile, I was already planning to post this adventure in Auctionland in my blog. “Wait…” Dale insisted. “Wait until you actually have the drawing in your hands.” Two weeks after the holidays passed and I still had not heard from the packing company on the amount it would cost to pack and send the drawings. Again, I wrote several emails; to the auction company and the packers. Finally, a few days later, I received an email with an apology about the time and the price: 78 pounds. Yikes! But, there was no choice. I paid the required postage and handling and five days later I received the drawings; horribly packed, almost literally thrown in the box with no protection for any of the drawings. And the rendering of Pauline Chase on top! Facing upward!!!
Luckily, the drawings suffered no damage, the Chase drawing is quite beautiful (so much so that I was able to include it in a presentation I gave for art teachers last week on how to approach portraits. So, here it is my friends: my new favorite drawing of Peter Pan. As for the other drawings in the lot, there are about twenty paintings, sketches, and original prints of English performers from 1800 to the mid 1960s which will keep me busy with research over the next several weeks. But…I don’t think I’ll be selling them as they are quite charming too.