A genuinely magical illustration from the 1940 John C. Winston Co.’s publication of the Oscar Wilde classic The Happy Prince and Other Tales. This watercolor on board is a colorful and evocative rendering of the climactic scene from Wilde’s emotionally complex parable of Christian love.
The illustration depicts the selfish giant gazing upon the boy who warmed his heart, as the boy bleeds from stigmata-like wounds. Everett Shinn was the youngest of a loosely associated group of New York-based social realist illustrators who were termed, by their critics, the Ashcan school, for their gritty style, often ugly depictions of humanity, and fixation on urban scenes. Shinn’s illustrations are revered for the manner in which these themes are juxtaposed with gentle beauty.
Shinn’s touching and haunting scenes are highly collectible today and at auction an individual example of his work has commanded almost $8 million dollars.
This watercolor is a beautiful and remarkable example of Shinn’s illustrative style, and comes with a copy of The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, completely illustrated by Shinn, who also wrote the preface to the edition. It comes in black and gold period frame.
A brief biography of Everett Shinn
A prominent New York-based artist in the early 20th century, Everett Shinn was a Social Realist painter who focused on lower-class urban themes. Although his ongoing reputation seems to be for Social-Realist subjects, his real interest was in the theatre and in creating images celebrating the spectacle.
From 1917 to 1923, he worked as art director for Metro Goldwyn Mayer and other studios and wrote, produced and created scene designs for plays held at his own 55 seat theatre in his New York City home. He was also a cartoonist and illustrator including work for twenty-eight books and ninety-four magazine stories.
“A brash and often flamboyant character, he went through a series of marriages and divorces.” Like other members of the Ashcan school, it was rumored that he only took illustration jobs on when money for liquor was getting tight.
Shinn was born in Woodstown, New Jersey, and studied industrial design and basic engineering at Spring Gardens Institute in Philadelphia. From 1893 to 1897, while working for a gas fixtures company in Philadelphia, he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as a student of Thomas Anshutz. He then worked as a staff artist for the Philadelphia Press with George Luks, William Glackens, and John Sloan, and this group, part of the future “Eight,” centered around Robert Henri’s Philadelphia studio.
In 1897, Shinn began working for the New York Herald and shortly after started a series of murals including panels for the Stuyvesant Theater and industrial depictions for the Trenton, New Jersey City Hall.
Based in New York, he traveled extensively and also did theater and film work. In 1949, he was elected an academician of the National Academy.