Bonhams announces the June 24 auction of Entertainment Memorabilia in Los Angeles.
The summer auction features The Gaston Collection of original movie poster and lobby art.
From Long Beach, CA, this collection, comprised of approximately 80 original works of movie poster art, portrays such timeless stars as Fred Astaire, Lionel Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, William Powell, Ginger Rogers, Spencer Tracy and Mae West, among others.
During the height of the Great Depression, three brothers, Jerome, Norton and Edward Gaston, ran a commercial art business out of a studio located in the basement of the Fox Theater in Long Beach, CA.
From the press release:
Using magazine images and black and white photographs of movie stars supplied by film studios such as Columbia and RKO, the brothers created large “show signs,” primarily using gouache on board, that were larger or more vivid–or more closely tuned to what the individual theater was showing–than the film posters issued by the studio itself. Norton, a portraitist, painted the faces and bodies, while Jerome and Edward did the backgrounds, often including flashy, eye-catching lettering.
The Gaston’s produced artwork, for the reasonable price of $6-$40 per piece, for theaters in and around the Long Beach, CA area, considered a good salary during the late 1920s and 1930s.
Often, the brothers would retrieve the posters once the films finished their runs and recycle the materials to create new works on the backs of previously used panels, even detaching stars’ faces from older works and adding them to newer images.
Dr. Catherine Williamson, Director of the Entertainment Memorabilia Department at Bonhams, comments on the sale: “These intricately detailed panels are truly a testament to the Golden Age of Hollywood and a genre of art and film history that no longer exists. By the early 1940s, most film studios replaced these handmade, originally conceived panels, such as those featured in the Gaston Collection, with printed posters. Bonhams is pleased to feature these rare and unique double-sided posters during the June auction.”
Years later, Jerome Gaston told his son Norton (named in memory of his uncle) that he had preserved a small selection of the family’s works, only to lose them when a flash flood ravaged the garage where the panels were stored. After Jerome’s passing in 1989, however, the younger Norton Gaston took inventory of the family home and discovered that his father had been wrong: a small selection of Gaston brothers’ artwork had survived.
This collection has remained in the family to the present, and contains the following highlights: “My Man Godfrey,” a large, original gouache on board, featuring profile of William Powell, c.1936 (est. $1,000-1,500); “Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood,” a large, original gouache on board, loosely based on the original poster artwork, c.1935 (est. $1,000-1,500); “Marlene Dietrich / Robert Donat in Knight Without Armor,” a large, original gouache on board, custom poster listing a double feature with “It’s All Yours,” c.1937 (est. $600-900); and lobby artwork for “Top Hat,” a large, original gouache on board, featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (est. $1,000-1,500). The collection also includes original artwork for personality posters pieces of Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Coleman and Warner Oland as Charlie Chan (estimates range from $300-600 each), among others.
Select works from the Gaston Collection will be on view during the highly anticipated TCM Classic Film Festival at the famed Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, CA, on April 12-15.
The illustrated auction catalog will be available online for review and purchase in the weeks preceding the sale at www.bonhams.com/us.
Preview: June 22-23, Los Angeles
Auction: June 24, Los Angeles