CHARLES G. MARTIGNETTE Jr. 1950-2008
Charles apparently suffered a heart attack and died in his Florida home on February 3, 2008. I was still waiting for a call back from him.
I started talking to Charles in 1995 as I was buying a Gil Elvgren original painting from Dan Vancas of Vanguard Gallery in Carmel. Since it was difficult at that time to find a price comparison of Elvgren's originals, I started perusing through the art magazines and lo and behold, there was a full page ad by a fellow named Charles G. Martignette Gallery with an Elvgren original painting shown for sale.
I called Charles between his published hours of 2:00 PM to 2:00 AM and asked about the price of the Elvgren. He explained that that was a $60,000 painting because Elvgren was the "Norman Rockwell of the Pinup world". That made the Elvgren I was buying a good enough value. There was a Vargas painting on the same page with an Art Deco feel that I was intrigued by so I asked about that also. I was informed that particular painting was $1.5 million. Having just bought a couple of Vargas originals, I choked a little bit and said thank you very much....click. I quickly learned that you don't hang up on Charles Martignette. I got a call back from Charles informing me that he was "my new best friend" and he said he would like to send me some information so I gave him my address. I immediately received a package in the mail with magazine articles and information on himself. I think he was a little put off that I didn't know who he was. I still remember joking with friends about this fellow who looked like Bob Guccione, mainly because of the gold chain around his neck.
When Charles found out I had purchased the Elvgren painting from Vancas, I started getting calls from both of them about the other. I quietly and intently listened, still not realizing the firestorm between those two that I had just placed myself in. I was also working with Vancas as he started creating his remarqued Elvgren giclee prints so that I would get the #1 prints. I was in the midst of the firestorm and still trying to stay neutral. I just loved the art.
Charles was sending me stacks of photo's of the most incredible pinups I had ever seen and wanted to trade for my Elvgren. But what he had sent me was a magazine article where he had stated that the value of an Elvgren painting would pass the $300,000.00 mark in the next few years. Why would I trade now. Charles invited me to visit him in Florida, so I decided to take him up on the offer. Being a very cautious soul, I planned to make a quick visit and then head down to the Florida Keys for a vacation. When I went to Charle's apartment complex, he actually had me come to his father's apartment while he made sure Charles Sr. was taken care of for the evening. I was very impressed by the care he was giving to his father and whenever I would call Charles Jr.at his father's apartment, he would put Charles Sr. on the phone to chat a little. It says a lot about a man when he is sole caregiver of his parents, especially a man as busy as Charles Jr. Sadly, Charles Sr. passed on a couple years later.
When I entered Charles apartment I was overwhelmed by the amount of illustration artwork and books that were stacked all over the floor, the walls and the beds. It was already sensory overload. We jumped in his car and headed to his warehouse. He was always nervous when he pulled in. He asked me if I minded guns and I said as long as they weren't pointed at me, I'm fine with them. He pulled a pistol out of the glove box and had me wait in the car until he had cleared the alarm and checked the building. As I entered the storage unit, I realized just what I was in for. Art everywhere. More art than I have seen displayed in the great museums around the world.
Charles started pulling out all of the pinups that he had sent me pictures of and even more. He started pulling out Vargas originals and telling stories. I had to put on my best poker face so as not to give away my shear excitement at what I was seeing. But what I was really draw to was illustrations that weren't pinups. I kept asking questions and he kept pulling out artwork. He wanted to find something I was willing to trade for and I just kept looking as if he hadn't found it yet. Everything he pulled out was better that the one before it, so why would I stop here. He finally realized that I wasn't about to let go of my Elvgren or my Vargas, but enjoyed my unbridled thirst for the knowledge he had to offer. He told me that I reminded him of when he was bothering Walt Reed when he first got the bug for illustration art. I took that as a compliment.At that point, we went back to his apartment and he showed me stack of pages that turned out to be the manuscript for The Great American Pinup and the largest section was on Gil Elvgren.
We spent nearly a week looking through his warehouse and going out on the town. I really enjoyed the time we spent. We would start work at 9:00 PM and end at 4 or 5 in the morning. Being from the West Coast made it easier for me and these were his usual hours.
Alan Goffman visited one night so I joined them for dinner. Charles introduced him as the only honest art dealer in New York. Unfortunately, Alan died of a heart attack about a year later. I wonder what it is about illustration that makes this contagious.
Charles would tell me stories about his meetings with Reid Austin and how Reid would ask him to give enough notice before a visit so Reid could take some anti-anxiety medication before he got there. Shortly before Reid died a couple of years ago, he told me almost the exact same story as Charles had told me. I shared that with Charles and he got a laugh that Reid had remembered it the same way.
I bought a lot of artwork from Charles over the last 10 years but the closure of my gallery put me at a stand still in the arts buying department. I was just back to a point where I could bid against Charles at auctions again but I discovered that he was no longer there. It took some of the fun out of the chase. I had spent a few minutes browsing at Elliot Bay Books in Seattle and picked up a national arts magazine that I hadn't looked at in years and there was a tribute to Charles G. Martignette. I pulled out my phone and dialed his number, but sadly no answer.
I was waiting for Charles to write the book on the art of Charles Sheldon but it looks like I will have to do it now.
I hope someone lets me know where all your marvelous collection ends up.
The world lost a special person, even if everyone's opinions didn't all agree.
Charles was called many things....intense...passionate...loose cannon...unpredictable...obsessed..world renowned....
I called him friend.
We'll miss you Charles.
Scott A. McCallum
Art of Illustration
Seattle, WA 98101
For a better tribute to Charles check out Arts and Antiques
5/14/2009 New York Times article on the $20,000,000 auction of Charles Estate.
Charles G. Martignette bought thousands of magazine and book illustrations showing dramatic moments — families arguing, gunslingers battling, treasure hunters digging — and squirreled them away.
An art investor in Hallandale, Fla., who died last year at 57, he stored crateloads at his apartment and nearby warehouses. “He was notorious for being just a pack rat, and extremely secretive,” said Ed Jaster, a vice president at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas. “You could barely walk around his home, and he would only take you out to his storage facilities in the middle of the night, when nobody else was around to see what he had.” He added, “He was a kook-ball, but really endearing.”
Heritage will be selling Mr. Martignette's inventory of about 4,300 illustrations in half a dozen sales over the next few years. (Three trucks, each 53 feet long, have hauled the pictures to Dallas.) On Thursday and Friday, Heritage will display about 30 examples at the Ukrainian Institute of America at 2 East 79th Street in Manhattan. The preview fare ranges from images for pulp novels like “The Corpse Was Beautiful” and “Whelps of the Wolf” to Saturday Evening Post covers with portraits of World War I soldiers or children playing cowboy to women painted by the pin-up artists Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren.
Mr. Martignette (pronounced mar-tin-YET-tee) was best known for acquiring original pinup artwork, often directly from calendar printing houses. “He drove all over in the '70s and '80s and picked these things up for nickels,” Mr. Jaster said. Mr. Martignette helped write scholarly books on the subject, including “The Great American Pin-Up” (Taschen), but only a quarter of his collection is actually soft pornography. When shopping for portraits by Norman Rockwell or scenes of detectives rescuing tied-up damsels, he had two main criteria: the piece had to be American and aimed at the masses.
When mainstream critics disdained his material, he countered that his favorite artists were prolific, masterful realists: “These guys could flat-out paint,” Mr. Jaster said.
At Heritage's first auction, on July 15 and 16, estimates will range from a few hundred dollars to half a million. Near the high end, Mr. Jaster predicted, will be a 1908 painting by William Herbert Dunton showing a cowboy sliding down a desert hillside and a 1963 portrait by Mel Ramos of Sheena, a comic book heroine, dressed in torn animal pelts.
|Martignette Jr., Charles G.||
|Martignette, Charles G., Jr., of Hallandale, formerly of Somerville, MA, died of natural causes on Sunday, February 3, 2008. Mr. Martignette was the devoted son of the late Charles Martignette and Marie Della Femina Martignette, also of Hallandale and Somerville. Mr. Martignette lived in Florida for the last 35 years and was recognized as a world renowned art collector, dealer and historian. His articles on American Illustration appeared in numerous journals and he co-authored books on the subject which continue to be in print. Mr. Martignette is remembered as a devoted friend, cherished colleague and beloved family member. A Memorial Service will be held Wednesday, February 13, 2008 10:00AM at St. Matthew's Church in Hallandale, 542 Blue Heron (954-458-1590). In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to The Society of Illustrators in New York City, NY, or The American Heart Association.|
|Published in the Sun-Sentinel on 2/10/2008.|
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An acknowledged authority in the field of American illustration art and internationally recognized as an author, dealer, appraiser and collector of original artwork by America's great Twentieth Century illustrators and artists, Mr Martignette's collection numbered more than 10,000 works, the largest in the world.
He co-authored The Great American Pin-up, which, with 900 illustrations, was considered to be the bible of this genre. He also wrote The Complete Works of Gil Elvgren, the leading exponent of pin-up art, as well as several other books on the subject. He is credited with searching out, acquiring and preserving the life's work of numerous great illustrators, including Dean Cornwell.
Walt Reed, founder of the Illustration House, a New York City-based gallery devoted to the art and history of illustration, became acquainted with Mr Martignette in the 1970s and mentored the young collector in a nascent interest that became the focus of his life.
"Charles Martignette never saw a picture — illustration — he didn't like — and didn't want to possess! He was a compulsive collector," said Reed. "Starting with an interest in pin-up art in the 1970s, it eventually broadened to the best illustrators of all subjects and media. In addition to Vargas, Petty and Elvgren, his collection embraced works by Harvey Dunn, Mead Schaeffer, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and hundreds of others. He was an amiable 'character' who loved to wheel and deal, and his passing leaves a big hole in the illustration collecting community."
"He was a passionate and eclectic collector," stated Judy Goffman Cutler, co-founder of the National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, R.I., and founder and executive director of the American Illustrators Gallery, New York City.
Paintings from Martignette's private collections were first exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., in 1980. Since that time, museums throughout the world have displayed works from his diversified collections of American illustration art, including the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art-Fairfield County, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, the Henry Ford Museum, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the Oakland Museum, the Boston Museum of Science, the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, New York City, the Museum of the Rockies and the Willamette Science and Technology Center.
Overseas institutions include Odakyu Museum, Tokyo, Japan, Fukushima Prefectrual Museum of Art, Daimaru Museum, Umeda-Osaka, Osaka, Japan. Museum exhibitions of Charles Martignette's collection of American illustration art have been presented twice by the Ringling School of Art & Design's renowned Selby Gallery in Sarasota, Fla.
Between 1980 and 1990, Mr Martignette was a regular Playboy contributor. The magazine published a ten-year series of articles exclusively featuring one of Charles Martignette's private art collections. These multipaged pictorial and text layouts were regularly published under the title "Provocative Period Pieces." They appeared in the magazine for more than a decade at the personal direction and wishes of Hugh M. Hefner. The articles were published in the US edition of Playboy as well as in the international Playboy editions of France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Canada and Japan.
Mr Martignette was an only child, the son of the late Charles Martignette and Marie Della Femina Martignette, also of Hallandale and Somerville. He had no surviving direct family members.
A memorial service was conducted on February 13 at St Matthew's Church in Hallandale. Donations in his memory can be made to the Society of Illustrators, 128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY 10065; 212-838-2560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org , or the American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org .Antiques and the Arts Editorial Content