“Out of Africa” Paintings & Letter, ca. 1985

Value (2012) | $3,050 Auction$4,575 Auction

These are two production design sketches that were donated by Sydney Pollack, who was the director of Out of Africa, to a film society that I belonged to in the mid '80s in Bloomington, Indiana. We'd written to several Indiana folks who were working in Hollywood for donations, and these are the items that he sent.

Well, they're wonderfully evocative paintings. This is the moment in the film, in this wonderful love story, when Robert Redford lands his biplane and comes back for Meryl Streep, and she's jumped off of her horse and she's running up to greet him. It's a climax of the film emotionally, and that is wonderfully painted. The one up top shows the home, and she's out there with her dogs. You also have the letter to go with it.

This is the letter that came with the paintings. It not only talks about his donation, but talks at length also about Stephen Grimes, the art director on Out of Africa, and just as the picture won Best Picture at the Oscars, he won an Oscar for art design on the film as well.

And he was an artist who did a lot of work as a graphic designer. His first poster he designed I think was Henry V with Sir Laurence Olivier, so he'd done a lot of graphic work. In the '50s and '60s, he worked with John Huston on a number of films, and then he stuck with Sydney Pollack on quite a number of films. This is not a terribly well-developed market. More and more pieces are coming out. I think people are really starting to value the artwork. Many of these artists were incredibly talented, but to them it's production art. They're under tight deadlines, they had to paint these things quickly. This one up here is gouache on board, and gouache is a medium you can work very quickly. You can water it down to any opacity that you need. This one we took over to the paintings table to get some extra help, and they believe it actually is an oil. We believe he just thinned the paint out. There's a little bit of cracking that indicates that it is oil, which is interesting that under a timeframe, he was using a medium that takes so long to dry.


Did you actually meet Meryl Streep?

Yes, I did, she came to Indiana University Bloomington for an interview, and I had an opportunity to show her this one.

You showed her this painting?

Correct. It seemed to me...my recollection was it sort of took her back, and she said you know, that it was very beautiful.

What did you pay for them?

I paid $100 apiece for them.

That's great. Everything about this film is beautiful, even the stationery that they designed just for production purposes. And Sydney Pollack has signed it in a matching ink. He signs it in brown, which goes with the color scheme of the stationery. It's very artistic. And, of course, he's no longer with us. And I think it's a $50 to $75 letter.


At auction, the painting up top, the gouache, would sell for approximately $1,000 to $1,500. And this one, which is a beautiful painting in and of itself, we would expect that one would probably sell between $2,000 to $3,000 at auction.

Oh, wow.

Appraisal Details

The Collector's Lab
Los Angeles, CA
Appraised value (2012)
$3,050 Auction$4,575 Auction
Cincinnati, OH (July 21, 2012)
20th Century
Gouache, Ink, Oil, Watercolor

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