It won’t be the first Grif Teller painting to come up at auction in recent years, but it is the first original created for a Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) calendar I’ve seen. Regarding the estimated price, that can make all the difference in the world.
Coming up December 8 at William Bunch is the original artwork for the 1936 PRR calendar Speed, Safety, and Comfort. The scene depicts southbound GG1 electric locomotive #4823 with three red Pullman cars at Claymont, Delaware, Milepost 19.5.
Teller is the artist most associated with PRR calendar artwork. He was working each year for more than 30 years to produce a painting to represent the carrier that employed hundreds of thousands and spanned more than a dozen states. More than 300,000 copies of each year’s calendar were printed and distributed. Teller was born December 9, 1899, and grew up in Newark, New Jersey. He graduated from the School of Fine and Industrial Arts in Newark and took night classes at the Art Students’ League of New York.
The 1936 calendar was also not the only PRR calendar by Teller to depict a GG1. The 1949 calendar, Main Line, Freight and Passenger and 1955, Mass Transportation also featured this Raymond Loewy-designed engine which became a symbol of modernity, clean power, and electrification.
Teller’s work wasn’t limited to railroads, although the remain the most sought after. He also painted some landscapes and farm scenes. He also completed commission work of rail scenes after his work with the PRR was completed. He exhibited his works at the National Academy of Design.
No other auction record for original calendar artwork can be located (though probably exists pre-internet), but a train scene from 1989 sold at Dan Morphy Auctions in Reading, Pa for $1600, near the low end of the estimate. His landscapes and barn scenes have failed to reach the $1,000 mark.
All indications are this one will be different, however. The estimated price is from $15,000 – $25,000. I should also note, compared to the actual calendar print, the colors are considerably more vibrant from the image of the original seen online (I haven’t seen the actual painting). It’s one to watch.
A side note, like most of the engines, GG1 4823 was scrapped.