Zden k Burian Illustrations, ca. 1930

Value (2009) | $8,000 Auction$10,000 Auction

I came by these illustrations from my uncle, and his father had them, and he was Czechoslovakian, came over when he was 16 years old. And my uncle just had these out in his garage, and he said to me one day, he said, "Would you like to have these old Western pictures?" I said, "Well, yes, I guess so. I'll take those for the grandsons." So that's how I acquired them. And his father, I don't know how he acquired them, but he was chief editor of the Czech newspaper in Omaha, Nebraska. And I did a little research on the Internet... APPRASIER: Yeah?

...and found out that this gentleman, Zdenek Burian, is from Czechoslovakia, the Moravian county.

Well, it's a terrific collection. Burian was sort of a... somewhat of a prodigy. He was born in 1905, went to the academy in Prague and, by the 1920s, the mid-'20s, he was already really pretty successful illustrator. He started doing magazines and periodicals, but very quickly moved on, as you said, to Robert Louis Stevenson. He worked for Zane Grey, illustrating all sorts of English language pieces as well as Czech works. And these would have been created in the late '20s or early 1930s. This is actually an oil that's been painted onto illustration board. This sort of has some pluses and minuses to it. As a medium, oil is generally the most desirable of media. It's sort of seen as the most important to work in. So an oil by an artist tends to have more value. Having said that, this also does have some minor drawbacks. The first is its condition. In the hair of the figure here, we can see there's a pattern of crackle right in the texture of the paint. So that little bit of damage does hurt it slightly. The other issue is subject matter. On the one hand, this was probably an illustration for a very interesting story. On the other hand, as an object to live with, the subject matter is a little bit tough to live with. We're in the middle of, let's face it, a death scene. There's no getting around it.


And many people don't really want to necessarily look at that as subject matter. When we take all those factors into account, we're looking at about... at auction, about $2,000 to $3,000 for the oil. Now, in contrast, I've just picked out a couple of other highlights from the collection. The first is this gouache that we're looking at up here. It's a color gouache. Gouache is just opaque watercolor. But the fact that it's color as an illustration certainly keeps it very interesting. The colors are very crisp. The figure himself is just magnificent. He's contemplative. So he's got a lot going for him. You're probably looking at about $1,000 to $1,500 for the color gouache. Now, over here, this is actually a gouache and grisaille. All that means is, in tones of gray. So it's a black-and-white gouache. This is going to be a little bit less desirable, but it's also still very saleable, and the subject matter here is fantastic. We've got a brave paddling in a canoe. We've got this wonderful setting, the drama of the rushing water. We do have the inscription here at the bottom. It's in Czech.

I'm not fluent. It says, "He looked for her all through the night."

"He looked for her all through the night." So this would have been the caption from the book, and this would have been the page number where it would have been placed. What you're looking at at auction for this particular work would be about $800 to $1,200. And if you were to sell the whole group at auction, you'd probably be looking at about $8,000 to $10,000 for the bunch.


So, a very nice find. Thank you.

Thank you, Robin.

You're welcome.

Appraisal Details

Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2009)
$8,000 Auction$10,000 Auction
Madison, WI (July 11, 2009)

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