14-12-19-2172NE06A Winnie the Pooh sothebys.jpg
One of the best-loved of all of E.H. Shepard’s illustrations – Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet playing ‘Poohsticks’ – set a saleroom record at Sotheby’s for £260,000. The ink drawing set a record for any book illustration at auction.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

When Sotheby's announced that the ink drawing which became the frontispiece to The House at Pooh Corner, showing Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet playing 'Poohsticks' was to be offered in their December 9 book sale, it was suggested that it might well beat the record for any Shepard drawing at auction.

 That record had been set by the drawing that marked Pooh's very first appearance in Winnie-the Pooh, "coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head...", which was sold by Sotheby's in 2012 for £115,000.

The 'Poohsticks' picture - priced at 20 guineas in a 1928 selling exhibition of Shepard's original drawings at London's Sporting Gallery - changed hands for just £700 in 1975 at Sotheby's.

On December 9, however, the 'Poohsticks' drawing more than doubled that previous Shepard best to reach £260,000 and also set a record for any book illustration at auction.

The record previously stood at £240,000, paid for Beatrix Potter's The Rabbits' Christmas party: The Departure - which sold at Sotheby's in 2008 as one of a group of original artworks that Beatrix gave to her brother, Walter Bertram Potter - but the new record was in danger of being very short-lived.

On the same day, the French saleroom, Artcurial offered one of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's original illustrations for Le Petit Prince, which they valued at €500,000-600,000. However, it failed to sell and for the time being Shepard remains top dog.

Familiar Figures

The 'Poohsticks' drawing was not, though, the only familiar Shepard drawing on offer in the Sotheby's London sale that included a number of others that had not been seen since those Sporting Gallery exhibitions of the 1920. Two other lots featured drawings from The House at Pooh Corner.

A drawing in which Christopher Robin, "feeling sunny and careless" as he walks, one hand in a pocket, the other holding a part eaten apple, sold at £25,000 and a drawing from Chapter One in which Pooh and Piglet clamber over a five-bar gate was bid to £85,000.

Shepard went on producing versions of his much-loved illustrations throughout his life, often as gifts for friends and family, and a drawing of Pooh packing jars of 'Hunny' into a hamper (again from The House at Pooh Corner) that failed to sell against a £25,000-30,000 estimate was clearly signed and inscribed 'Replica drawing made June/59'.

Valued at £40,000-60,000 in the Sotheby's London sale, but sold for £75,000, was an illustration from Chapter Two of Winnie-the-Pooh, "...in which Pooh goes visiting and gets into a tight place" - showing Christopher Robin, Rabbit and his many relations, Piglet and others all trying to release a rotund and overfed Pooh from the narrow entrance to Rabbit's home, where he has become firmly stuck. Yet another lot offering small studies of Pooh, Eeyore and Owl from Chapter Six of the same book reached £18,000.