Three Woody Guthrie Drawings, ca. 1960

Value (2007) | $9,000 Auction$15,000 Auction

My father was a news man for the Voice of America, and in the late '50s, early '60s, he interviewed Woody Guthrie for one of their cultural programs, and the story is that my father noticed these drawings on the table next to Woody and admired them and Woody Guthrie pulled these three drawings off the top of the pile and handed them to him.

Wonderful story. Impeccable provenance, too, if I may say. Do you know much about the rest of his drawings or his other artworks?

Only a little bit. I recently got a book about it by Nora Guthrie, and all I know is there aren't very many of them in circulation. Most of them were in his diaries, in his journals and so on, but that's about all I know.

As far as I'm aware, many of them are actually with the Woody Guthrie Archive in New York. He started drawing quite early on, around about 1939. He was doing illustrations for the "Woody Says" column he used to write. And he was also known for doing drawings for his book, Bound for Glory, of course. And he worked in series. He did a series of drawings of Sacco and Vanzetti, he did works around Coney Island, and he even did portraits and cartoons and all sorts of things like that. I'm just very impressed by the economy of line and the great directness of the imagery in these works. I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised by that-- he didn't mince words and was immensely creative when it came to self-expression. So I can imagine when he didn't feel the lyrics were working, maybe he decided he would do some drawings and see how that worked. It's interesting because they fall into an area which is part collectibles, part fine art, part, you could almost argue, rock 'n' roll/folk memorabilia. So you have a number of different groups that I think would be interested in these works. Now, when exactly was it they were acquired from him?

Late '50s, early '60s.

Because, of course, by then he was suffering very badly from Huntington's chorea, which is a degenerative disease.


I've spoken to one of my colleagues who deals specifically with collectibles and autographs, and he told me that just an autograph, such as this by Woody Guthrie, would be worth at least $1,000 to $1,500. And so on that basis, one must assume that for an original artwork, these should be worth at least, I would have thought, $3,000 to $5,000 each at auction. Thanks very much for bringing these in. Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2007)
$9,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Las Vegas, NV (August 18, 2007)
20th Century

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