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Gallery shows Seuss works

A New Port Richey woman opened a gallery that sells limited editions of Dr. Seuss' drawings.

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 5, 2000


Long before Jim Carrey donned green makeup to be the Grinch who stole Christmas, and long before Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure created a 10-acre "Seuss Landing" with a Cat in the Hat ride and a Caro-Seuss-el, there was Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

As Dr. Seuss, Geisel wrote 48 books for children and created illustrations of fantastical beasties and places that have made Horton, the Lorax, the Cat and the Grinch residents in the minds of people around the globe.

Geisel died in 1991, but in 1997, his widow, Audrey Geisel, commissioned The Chase Group publishers of Chicago to issue limited editions of hand-pulled, stamped and numbered lithographs on archival paper and serigraphs on canvas of her late husband's artistic works. Since then, they have become treasured possessions of Seuss devotees and popular exhibits at major art museums.

Last month, a limited number of the prints found a new home on the walls at Tammy White Galleries in New Port Richey. It's one of only two places in the Tampa Bay area (the other is Nuance Gallery in Tampa) and a mere 120 outlets in the United States and Canada that offer the pieces for sale, according to Kari Guhl, director of sales for The Chase Group.

"About three years ago I wanted to bring in this art work," Ms. White said. She hesitated because purchasing the works for resale was a considerable up-front investment and she wondered if Seuss lovers would find their way to her small strip center gallery in the Davis Plaza on U.S. 19, a couple blocks north of Main Street in New Port Richey.

Then a new customer arrived with his prized serigraph of Golden Girl, a long-necked gold creature loping across a wavy blue background (one of 375 in existence) for Ms. White to frame, and she could no longer resist. She called The Chase Group and asked if she could become a Seuss dealer.

It took a lot of paperwork to prove her gallery's qualification to be a Seuss showroom, but last month, her first shipment of Seuss works arrived, including two of the five-print sets from the Patron's Collection, an edition limited to 99 prints.

"The (first Patron's Collection) sold out before they were released," Ms. White said. That means they can be obtained only on the secondary market -- at markedly higher prices than their original $995 price.

Even so, Ms. White doesn't encourage her customers to look at the Seuss prints or any other art she sells as an investment. "People should buy things they like to look at themselves," not because they might make money on a future sale, she said.

Once the prints arrived, Ms. White, who is certified as a picture framer by the Professional Picture Framers Association of Richmond, Va., framed the prints using museum-quality materials. The lithographs were double matted with thick, acid-free paper to keep the specially made conservation glass away from the picture's surface.

"That glass will keep 97 percent of ultraviolet light away from the lithograph," she said. In addition, she advises her customers not to have fluorescent lights or direct sunlight near the works in order to preserve their bright colors. She also advises them not to hang the pieces on exterior walls to avoid moisture and temperature transfers that might harm them.

The lithographs of the storybook characters were issued in editions of 2,500 with 155 proofs and 99 Patron's Collection prints. The image sizes range from 12 by 9 inches to 11 by 14 inches. Unframed prints go for $225, with the five-image portfolios of five lithographs in a brushed aluminum collector's box going for $995. Frames can add $100 or more for each print.

Ms. White has 10 lithographs on display, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Sam-I-Am, Horton Hears a Who, The Cat in the Hat, The Bee Watcher-Watcher, Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book, Thing One and Thing Two, The Sneetches and Happy Birthday to You!, but she can order anything in the collection that hasn't been sold out.

The serigraphs come from book called The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss, a collection of never-before-published paintings that Geisel created in what he considered his "own time," the hours after midnight when his "real work" was done, according to his widow. They have the signature Geisel outlandish creatures in otherworldly settings, but, unlike the Dr. Seuss book characters that are painted in a few primary colors, the secret paintings incorporate multiple colors and shadings.

The serigraph prints are also larger -- up to 27 by 36 inches. On the primary market, they go for $1,300 to $1,600 apiece, plus framing. Ms. White has a framed Venetian Cat Singing Oh Solo Meow for $1,800 and Alley Cat for a Very Long Alley for $1,500.

The Chase Group plans to issue four new prints each year, said The Chase Group's Ms. Guhl.

"We have enough work in the book to last about 10 years," or about 50 prints in all, she said.

So far 16 serigraphs and two sculptures have been made from The Secret Art and 13 lithographs have been issued from the storybooks, she said.

Who buys these Dr. Seuss prints?

"The wonderful thing about Dr. Seuss is that it appeals to every walk of life, every age and ethnic group," Ms. Guhl said. "It touches so many people that he is in the fourth generation (of readers). I remember as a kid having it read to me, so I buy them for my nieces and nephews."

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