Sotheby’s Winnie-the-Pooh Drawing Expected to Reach £100,000

E. H. Shepard's illustration
E. H. Shepard's illustration "For a long time they looked at the river beneath them.." with a pre-sale estimate of xxx. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Sotheby’s London is taking a trip to The Hundred Acre wood this December 9. The auctioneer is set to sell several illustrations by E. H. Shepard, the original illustrator of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh (1926).  The drawings will be a part of Sotheby’s “English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations” sale, and will include classic children’s works by Beatrix Potter, Mike Margolis, Arthur Rackham, and a particularly well-known drawing of everyone’s favorite Pooh Bear that is estimated to reach between £100,000 and £150,000.

The featured illustration titled “For a long time they looked at the river beneath them…” is set in chapter six of the second Milne book, The House at Pooh Corner, published in 1928. The ink drawing shows Pooh standing on a bridge and playing a game of Poohsticks with Christopher Robin and Piglet; it is one of several Shepard illustrations up for auction.

A pencil drawing of the same scene sold at Sotheby’s last year for £58,750.

E.H. Shepard is among the most famous illustrators of early 20th-century children’s English literature, a group that includes Arthur Rackham (whose works are also included in the auction), John Tenniel of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books, and Francis Donkin Bedford, who illustrated J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Shepard is also well-known for illustrating a 1931 edition of Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows.

Shepard and Milne had a strong working partnership, collaborating on four books with each other. Shepard reportedly first worked with Milne in 1924 on a book of collected poems called When We Were Very Young at the recommendation of a Punch editor. Delighted with the illustrations, Milne than asked Shepard to work on his children’s book, Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926. He collaborated with Milne on two other books—the book of poems Now We Are Six, in 1927, and later The House at Pooh Corner, the final book in the Pooh series. Milne would inscribe a poem in Shepard’s personal copy of Winnie-the-Pooh:

“When I am gone,
Let Shepard decorate my tomb,
And put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone:
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven,
And Pooh and Piglet walking (157)…
And Peter, thinking that they are my own,
Will welcome me to Heaven.”

The Sotheby’s auction will feature other works by Shepard, including two pencil sketches called Vespers (1924), as well as a complete set of drawings from a 1956 illustrated edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s young adult novel The Secret Garden.


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