Friday, October 18, 2019

P. G. Wodehouse and John R. Neill

P. G. Wodehouse's Roland Bleke - original art by John R. Neill.

John R. Neill (American) 1877-1943
gouache, watercolor, ink, & Chinese White on paper,
signed "JNO R NEILL"
Image size: 11" x 4"
Paper size: 11.25" x 8 5/16" mounted to thicker sheet of paper 14" x 10.5"

One of the gems of this collection of original art is this multi-media painting by John R. Neill for one of his most important magazine jobs, illustrating "A Man of Means" by P. G. Wodehouse and C. H. Bovill, which was serialized in Pictorial Review from May to October 1916.

Original art for Wodehouse's A Man of Means Click to enlarge.

As printed in magazine (1916).

The original drawing  shows the protagonist of the story, Roland Bleke, described in Neill's own hand: "His chief characteristic was an intense ordinariness." This quote is from fourth paragraph of the story that introduces the main character:

"The young man who entered looked exactly like a second clerk in a provincial seed-merchant’s office—which, strangely enough, he chanced to be. His chief characteristic was an intense ordinariness. He was a young man; and when you had said that of him you had said everything. There was nothing which you would have noticed about him, except the fact that there was nothing to notice. His age was twenty-two and his name was Roland Bleke."

Neill intended this to be the very first image of Roland Bleke the readers would see. In the final magazine layout, this is the fourth illustration, recaptioned, "A voice asked him what he thought he was doing." See printed version of the illustration in photos above (not included in this sale).

The illustration is executed in gouache, watercolor, ink, and Chinese white. The illustration is signed "JNO R NEILL" and in addition to Neill's inked caption there are marks at the top and bottom indicating the drawing should be printed two inches wide. Neill has written the title of the story "Man of Means" and "May / 16" in pencil in the right hand margin. A small Neill family inventory label marked "189" is still present.

Two other drawings by John R. Neill have come to market for this beloved P. G. Wodehouse story one of which sold at auction nearly a decade ago by Bonhams on June 22, 2011, for $9150.00 at Sale 19514 - 20th Century Illustration Art.

Wodehouse's description written in John R. Neill's hand. Click to enlarge.

This is a once in a lifetime chance for fans of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse and the ordinary Roland Bleke!

John R. Neill's signature on the Wodehouse drawing (1916).

Please visit our on-line store featuring many wonderful original paintings, pen-and-inks, and other wonderful drawings by John R. Neill!

Come check it all out at