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Tintin Drawing Sold for €3.2 Million Is the World's Most Expensive Comic Book Art

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Fri, 15 Jan 2021 21:11:25 +0000
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<p>A <a href="https://www.artcurial.com/en/lot-herge-georges-remi-dit-1907-1983-les-aventures-de-tintin-reporter-en-extreme-orient-le-lotus">rare Tintin cover illustration</a> set a new world record yesterday, becoming the most expensive comic book art in the world after selling at auction for a staggering €3,175,400 (about $3.84 million USD), according to a <a href="https://www.artcurial.com/sites/default/files/2021-01/r-4085_BD-lotus-bleu.pdf">statement</a>.</p><p>Tintin creator <a href="https://www.tintin.com/en/herge">Hergé</a> crafted the elaborate design—intended to grace the cover of his 1936 comic book <em><a href="https://www.tintin.com/en/albums/the-blue-lotus"><em>The Blue Lotus</em></a></em>—with ink, gouache and watercolors. In the tale, intrepid boy reporter <a href="https://www.tintin.com/en/characters/tintin">Tintin</a> and his dog Milou, or “Snowy” in English translations, travel to China, where they dismantle a Japanese spy network and bust an opium-smuggling ring. The proposed cover image shows Tintin and Snowy hiding in a large vase framed against a black background and peering out at an enormous, floating red dragon that looms overhead.</p><p>“Hergé was determined to make the reader shudder,” says comic book expert Eric Leroy in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BmQN3K49aw">video</a> produced by the <a href="https://www.artcurial.com/fr/vente-4085-lunivers-du-createur-de-tintin">Artcurial</a> auction house. “Tintin, facing this magnificent dragon, wears an anxious expression. What dangers might threaten him?”</p><p>Per the <a href="https://apnews.com/article/paris-drawing-61531e7e7b70f932c5241aebdd9e0766">Associated Press</a>, Hergé’s publisher told him that his original design would be too expensive to mass-produce. As a compromise, Hergé created a pared-down—and cheaper—version for the 1936 cover, removing the floating Chinese characters, swapping colors and changing the shading on the dragon, among other adjustments, according to the video.</p><p>Hergé gave the original design as a gift to Jean-Paul Casterman, his editor’s 7-year-old son. The paper was folded up and placed in a drawer, where it remained until 1981, reports Sian Cain for the <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/14/tintin-cover-art-sells-26m-just-missing-record-comic-book-sale-le-lotus-bleu-herge">Guardian</a></em>.</p><p>“This painting is so rare because it has never been on the private market before,” Leroy tells <a href="https://www.cnn.com/style/article/tintin-painting-scli-intl/index.html">CNN</a>’s Christopher Johnson.</p><div class="embedly-plugin" data-type="video"> <iframe width="854" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6BmQN3K49aw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></div><p>As the <em>Guardian </em>notes, Hergé’s work had previously set the record for the most expensive comic book art in 2014, when original ink flyleaf drawings used in the <em>Adventures of Tintin </em>series sold to an American collector for €2.65 million.</p><p>Born <a href="https://www.tintin.com/en/herge">Georges Remi</a> in 1907, the Belgian illustrator adopted Hergé as a pen name in 1924, five years before he started publishing Tintin stories, according to <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herge">Encyclopedia Britannica</a>. The French-language comics, which featured Tintin embarking on voyages and swashbuckling adventures around the world, eventually became one of the the most popular <a href="https://france-amerique.com/en/ninety-years-on-tintin-is-still-struggling-to-conquer-america/">European cartoon series</a> of the 20th century.</p><p>According to the official Tintin <a href="https://www.tintin.com/en/albums/the-blue-lotus">website</a>, <em>The Blue Lotus</em>—the fifth in Hergé’s Tintin series and a commercial success—marked a major transition in the author’s style, as he began to research the countries he would portray extensively in each book. Many believe that one character in this story, Chang Chong-Chen, a young Chinese orphan that Tintin saves from drowning, was inspired by Hergé’s real-life friendship with Chang Chong-jen (Zhang Chongren).</p><p>Chongren was a Chinese <a href="https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/art/2014-10/17/content_18756364.htm">sculptor and art student</a> who lived in Brussels. In the comic book, Tintin has conversations with Chang Chong-Chen in which he satirizes European misconceptions about Chinese people and criticizes Japanese military action in China—insights that were likely inspired by Chongren, as Tobias Grey reported for the <em><a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-tintin-taught-europeans-about-china-11608919200">Wall Street Journal</a> </em>last December.</p><p>In the decades since the illustrator’s death in 1983, the cartoon franchise has faced criticism for its portrayal of <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/06/tintin/485501/">colonialist attitudes</a> toward other countries. One frequently cited example appears in <em><a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/racism-row-overshadow-s-90th-birthday-edition-of-tintin-s-congo-adventure-2j2jbqplv">Tintin in the Congo</a></em>, a 1931 comic that depicts African people as childish, lazy caricatures. European colonizers often employed these racist characterizations as justifications for the exploitation and colonization of parts of the African continent.</p><p>Casterman’s children put the <em>Blue Lotus </em>artwork up for sale on Thursday. Expected to sell for between €2 and €3 million, the art launched a “frenzied” bidding, surpassing the €2 million mark “within seconds,” according to the <em>Guardian</em>.</p><p>“Owing to its uniqueness, this masterpiece of comic art deserves its world record and confirms that the comic-strip market is in excellent health,” says Leroy in the statement, per a translation by <em><a href="https://news.artnet.com/market/tintin-drawing-sets-comic-art-auction-record-1937240">Artnet News</a></em>’ Sarah Cascone.</p>
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