Heritage Auctions is an auction house that, like Sotheby’s, puts images of their items to be auctioned, notably including artworks, online in relatively high resolution.
Unlike Sotheby’s (and Christie’s), Heritage doesn’t constrain its hi-res images to a zooming box; instead giving you a high res image that you can view as a whole. The tradeoff, however, is that to gain access to the large images you must have an account and be logged in. The account is free and requires that you cough up your name, address, phone and email (no credit card number is required).
I’ve certainly found it worthwhile to be able to view the large images of some of the great stuff they often have up for auction. They add you to a mailing list, but you can opt out, or choose news about only the categories of items in which you are interested. (Unfortunately, they seem unable or unwilling to distinguish between original comic book art and collectable comics.)
The art on Heritage is of a different stripe than that found in auctions on Sotheby’s and Christie’s (which often deal in the most expensive museum quality works that ever change hands by auction). Heritage does have some museum quality art, usually of lesser renown and often American. You will sometimes find gems by American Impressionists and painters that would be the focus of smaller, regional museums.
One of the star categories of Heritage’s art auctions is their sales of original illustration art, like the upcoming 2011 May New York Signature Illustration Art Auction. Here you will find work by top illustrators like J.C. Leyendecker, NC Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, Charles Dana Gibson, Dean Cornwell, Maxfield Parrish, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy, Coby Whitmore, Haddon Sundblom, Frank Schoonover, Tom Lovell and many others.
From the home page you can find current and upcoming auctions. From the launch page of the individual auction you can click on individual items in the little slide show of Featured Items, or better, click on “View All Featured Items” to see them as a list. To see all items in the auction as a list with thumbnails, click on the main image associated with the auction (just under the title).
Find items in the list that you are interested in and click to open their page (I usually open in several in new browser tabs). On the detail page you will find information about the work, size, medium, estimated value and current bids. Clicking on “View Larger Image” shoots you further down the same page to a larger version, and often supplementary images of the artist’s signature, the frame, backing, etc. This is as far as you can go if you don’t have an account.
If you have an account and log in, you can click on “Look Closer” and open a glorious high-res image in a pop-up window. No scrolling zoom window, just a single image you van view as large as your monitor will allow (or download for future reference).
If that’s not enough, in the middle of the original page, between the small and medium size images, many of the individual images have thumbnailed links to other works by that artist that were previously offered for auction.
An auction like this one can go on for hundreds of items. You can choose how many thumbnails to view per page at the bottom. At 50 per page, the May Illustration auction goes on for 16 pages of thumbnails. The pieces are arranged alphabetically by artist, except that at some point, they end the alphabetical listing and start it again with a second string lineup of lesser works, those with attribution in question and generally items of lesser value.
Somewhere toward the bottom of the 10th page in this auction, I encountered a number of drawings by Dean Cornwell, some of which had starting bid minimums of $1!
You can read about the May Illustration Auction in more detail in reviews on Art Daily, Antique Trader and Matthew Innis’ Underpaintings. In the latter you will find a nice selection of highlights from the auction images.
You can also search the Heritage site in the right hand column of the home page for items from previous auctions, in categories like Illustration Art, Fine Art, Western and Texas Art, Comics and Comic Art, etc.
As usual for resources like this, I’ll issue my Major Timesink Warning. Yow!
[Images above, each with detail: J.C. Leyendecker, Charles Dana Gibson, Dean Cornwell (painting), Dean Cornwell (drawing), Pruett Carter]