An original illustration from The Wind in the Willows, which was recently discovered hanging in a country house, is to be sold at auction.
The pencil and ink drawing is by EH Shepard, who illustrated Kenneth Grahame’s classic and Winnie-the-Pooh. Titled Swaggering Down the Steps, it shows Mr Toad coming down the steps of Toad Hall clad in motoring attire to be greeted by Ratty, Badger and Mole. Inscribed in the margins are instructions for the printer.
It has been privately owned since it was acquired by the family of the current owner 69 years ago, and was recently found hanging on the stairs of an East Anglian country house. It will be auctioned off on 7 December by Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers in Cambridge and has an estimated value of £8,000 to £12,000.
Shepard was asked to illustrate The Wind in the Willows in 1931 by Grahame. By then, he had already provided drawings for Punch magazine and Winnie-the-Pooh. It was the author of the latter, AA Milne, who introduced Grahame and Shepard.
Nicolas Martineau, director at Cheffins, said the drawing showed Mr Toad “full of pomp and excitement over his prospective new purchase”, a red car, “only to be confronted by his disapproving friends come on a mission of mercy to rescue poor Toad from himself and his addiction for motorcars”.
“As we all know this scene ends unhappily with Toad placed under house arrest by his friends, escaping captivity and stealing a car in which he wreaks havoc as ‘The Terror of the Highway’ and is subsequently sent to jail for his actions,” Martineau added. “The Wind in the Willows has had multiple editions since its first publication in 1908 but it’s from Shepard’s wonderful illustrations of the 1930s and beyond that we really associate the characters.”
“Drawings such as these rarely come to the market especially having been hidden from view for so long,” Martineau said. “During his later years Shepard was to witness his drawings, especially those from the Winnie-the-Pooh books, sell for considerable sums of money, yet of the almost 100 books that he illustrated, the drawings for The Wind in the Willows were said to have been Shepard’s favourites.”
In 2018, an original map of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood by Shepard sold at auction for £430,000, setting a world record for a book illustration.