An original illustration for Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows has been sold for £33,644 at Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers on 7th December. The pencil and ink drawing by Ernest Howard Shepard, (E.H. Shepard), one of the most iconic children’s illustrators, was sold to a UK-based trade buyer, against a presale estimate of £12,000.

The drawing, having been in private hands since it was acquired by the family of the current owner 69 years ago, was recently rediscovered hanging on the stairs of an East Anglian country house and was included in the Cheffins’ Fine Art Sale.

Lot 162, Swaggering down the Steps by E.H. Shepard 

Titled ‘Swaggering down the Steps’, the illustration depicts Mr Toad coming down the steps of Toad Hall clad in motoring attire to be greeted by Ratty, Badger and Mole, and is inscribed in the margins with instructions for the printer. 

Nicolas Martineau, Director, Cheffins says: “We are delighted with this fantastic result which goes to show the enduring popularity of works by this most iconic of illustrators.  This wonderful image has all that you could wish for as far as a scene from The Wind in the Willows  is concerned featuring the protagonist Toad with motor car outside Toad Hall being confronted by Ratty, Badger and Mole and illustrates one of the most memorable and amusing passages from the story. This work saw a great deal of pre-sale interest as we expected and this strong result is a testament to Shepard’s skill and brilliance”.

E. H. Shepard was first asked to illustrate The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame in 1931, following his success in providing drawings for Punch and later, A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. He was introduced to Grahame by Milne himself, and Shepard is recorded to have remembered his first meeting with the author at his home at Church Cottage, Pangbourne, Berkshire fondly. As detailed in Carolyn Hares-Stryker’s book, ‘The illustrators of The Wind in the Willows, 1908 – 2008,’ he reportedly said of his characters to Shepard, ‘I love these little people, be kind to them’ and described the local meadows, rivers, and woods where he’d drawn inspiration for his story. Shepard set off to sketch the places Grahame had described and these formed the basis of Shepard’s visioning for Grahame’s text. Shepard recalled his final visit with Grahame before his death in 1932, ‘I went to his home and was able to show him some of the results of my work, through critical, he seemed pleased and, chuckling, said, ‘I’m glad you’ve made them real.’

The current auction record for E.H Shepard was for a framed ink drawing of The Original Map of the Hundred Acre Wood from A.A Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh which made £430,000 in 2018.

The price reported is the total, inclusive of buyers’ premium at 24.5% + VAT (29.4%).

Auction: The Fine Sale, 7th and 8th December 2022   

Location: Cheffins, Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge, UK, CB1 7EA

For further information contact the Fine Art Department on 01223 213343,