Feb 08, 2024 - Sale 2658

Sale 2658 - Lot 5

Price Realized: $ 938
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,000

JAMES AVATI (1912-2005)

Paperback cover studies..
Group of three sketches for New American Library: Cover for We Are the Living by Erskine Caldwell (New York: Signet, 1954). Mixed media on paper, glued to board. 191x165 mm, 7x4½ inches; cover for unknown publication, possibly Last of the Conquerors by William Gardner Smith (New York: Signet, 1949). 178x102 mm, 7x4 inches; and cover for Roman Tales by Alberto Moravia (New York: Signet, 1959). 178x114 mm, 7x4½ inches.
br>The sketch for the unknown publication is similar in composition to the published cover of Last of the Conquerors, Avati's first paperback cover illustration. In an interview, Avati states that New American Library made him "do sketch after sketch" for the book, which was the story of a Black soldier's relationship with a white woman in Berlin. "They wouldn't put a black man and a white girl on the cover in those days. It was just outside of what was accepted culturally in some parts of the country. So I had to paint him as a white man."
Source: Schilders, Ed. "James Avati," New Jersey Monthly, April 1982.

Through his paperback design work for the New American Library, and other publishers, Avati is said to have been one of the most widely known illustrators in America, with his book jacket designs in most homes. The New York Times explains that what helped propel him to be considered the king of the paperbacks was, "His innovation . . . to capture the sense of each book in a single scene" (Matha Schwendener, August 19, 2011). He did this by, among other things, reading the books he was assigned to design covers for.