A unique collection of 11 original mixed medium illustrations by Federico Castellon, submitted for consideration as part of a competition held by The Limited Editions Club in New York for a 1934 edition of The Arabian Nights Tales. Nine are completed illustrations for scenes depicted in The Talking Bird, The Singing Tree, and The Golden Water. There is also a handwritten title page illustration and a board that shows the artist's preferred layout page design. Illustrations are all addressed with Castellon's known Brooklyn, New York residence and signed Fred Castellon, in the margins - the name he frequently used as an illustrator. Most are signed in the image with the sobriquet Frecas. These display very well, the artwork itself is very well preserved with some scattered wear and soiling and corner losses in the margins on some of the illustration boards - when matted and framed these would display without issue.
Frederico Castellon is remembered today for his very important avant-garde surrealist fine art, this collection captures the artist's vision and viewer's imagination. Castellon's unique and well-tutored talent and worldly cosmopolitan style was at its zenith during the 1930s, his most productive and important decade.
Although undated, it is likely these were created for the 1934 edition of Burton's Arabian Nights, that eventually appeared with illustrations by Valenti Angelo. Decades later, Castellon would later illustrate Sir Walter Scott's The Talisman for the Limited Editions Club in 1968.
With their haunted quietude and mysterious, static figures, the prints and paintings of Federico Castellon exemplify the mid-twentieth-century artistic movement known as surrealism. Born Federico Cristencia de Castellon y Martinez, in Almeria, Spain, Castellon moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York, at the age of seven. Fascinated by art as a child, he was encouraged by his public school teachers and befriended by Mexican mural painter Diego Rivera (1886–1957), who believed he would gain little from attending formal art school. He helped Castellon get his first solo exhibition, when he was nineteen years old, at New York’s Weyhe Gallery, and helped him secure funds from the Spanish government for a three-year stay in Europe. While there, Castellon exhibited his work in Madrid and Paris and narrowly avoided being pressed into military service during Spain’s Civil War.
On his return to New York in the mid 1930s, Castellon began exhibiting widely and made his first lithograph; he took up etching in 1941. He won a number of prestigious awards, including Guggenheim fellowships in 1940 and 1949. His career was interrupted by three years’ service in the U.S. Army, when he was posted at home and in China and India. Following his discharge, in 1946, Castellon began a long career teaching at such institutions as Columbia University, Pratt Institute, the New School for Social Research, the National Academy of Design, and Queens College. In the 1950s, he created illustrations for Life Magazines and numerous books. In 1954 he traveled widely in South America, accompanying an exhibition of his work. At the end of the decade, he worked in sculpture.
In 1961, Castellon moved with his family to Europe, traveling in France, Spain, and Italy. In 1963, he was elected to the National Academy and returned to New York, but in 1965 he made another visit to Paris, where he preferred to print his etchings and lithographs. In his last years, Castellon received further honors, including election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1968, three years before his death at the age of fifty-six.
The Limited Editions Club of New York was started in 1929 by George Macy. At 29-years-old, he was an avid reader who wanted to make his living from books. His business revolved around publishing beautifully illustrated classic titles in relatively small quantities with club members paying a subscription.
Today, the Limited Editions Club (LEC) is an important part of the rare book business and the books are adored by collectors. From 1929 to 1985, the Limited Editions Club published 548 titles. George passed away in 1956 but his widow, Helen, ran the company until the early 1970s when she retired and sold to Boise Cascade who sold the firm again in 1978.
The Limited Editions Club is famous for original illustrations by the best book illustrators and artists. Between 1929 and 1985, 10 to 12 titles featuring 1,500 numbered copies each were published annually although the print run expanded to 2,000 numbered copies in later years.
Each title was unique, using special papers, special cover material including many in leather, almost all came in a slipcase or clamshell box, many of the titles were already regarded as classics and produced by private small presses throughout the world, almost all were signed by either the illustrator, author, publisher or designer. Sometimes three signatures can be found on the colophon page.
During the depression years, many of the world’s greatest artists struggled to find regular work and a large number were employed by Macy.
Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edward Ardizonne, Thomas Hart Benton, Rockwell Kent, Reginald Marsh, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Norman Rockwell, Edward Steichen and Grant Wood are just a few of the artists connected with the Limited Editions Club.
Other highlights include the editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass that were signed by Alice Hargreaves, who inspired the books as a child. The typography is also exceptional and involved masters of the age. Each book is a work of art in its own right.
Limited Editions Club books are very collectible for their beauty alone but many famous authors have been published over the years. Hans Christian Andersen, Jane Austen, Honore De Balzac, James Boswell, Ray Bradbury, Robert Burns, Lewis Carroll, Willa Cather, Anton Chekhov, Confucius, Joseph Conrad, Charles Darwin, Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexandre Dumas, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and Victor Hugo can be found on the list.