University Archives

Lot 174

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Jack Kerouac Original Drawing Depicting A Soul Ascending a Funeral Bier

An original drawing by Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the famous American Beatnik writer and artist. Provenance: The piece will be accompanied by an estate certification signed by John Shen-Sampas, executor of the Kerouac Estate by descent. John Shen-Sampas is the son of John Sampas, who was the brother-in-law of Jack Kerouac, and the brother of Stella Kerouac, Jack's wife.

The pencil drawing on paper also shows traces of ink or black paint at right. Signed by Jack Kerouac as "Jean-Louis Kérouac" near lower left. The drawing is suspended in a floating mount at center and framed behind glass. Not examined out of frame. The paper leaf shows expected wear, including light diagonal corner folds and wrinkles, and an isolated area of loss at lower right. A pinhole at upper left and isolated scattered foxing, else near fine. The frame paper backing verso is signed, dated, and inscribed by John Sampas in part as "John Sampas / To George Tobia / Aug 9, 2000 / John Sampas / Lowell." The paper leaf measures 10.875" x 8.5" while the overall frame measures 13.875" x 11.5" x 1."

The drawing depicts a dead man in an open casket at center mourned by a female figure at right. The funeral bier is surrounded by potted plants, floral arrangements, and a trio of candles. (Could this be Kerouac's modern interpretation of a pieta, with the Virgin Mary lamenting a prone Christ?) Kerouac used a pencil eraser to form nine radiating spokes of light encircling the deceased's head, thus relying on traditional Christian iconography to symbolize the immortality of the deceased, while also reiterating Kerouac's personal belief in Roman Catholicism.

Kerouac's artistic aspirations first emerged when he attempted a self-portrait at nine years old, according to John Shen-Sampas, Kerouac's literary estate executor. Kerouac claimed that he would rather be a painter than a writer, and when he was writing, he filled his notebooks and journals with sketches and doodles. While Kerouac was never really known for “his artistic endeavors in painting and drawing," when he died, Kerouac “left a trove of portraitures, drawings and sketches behind." Kerouac's artwork was inspired by celebrated modern artists like Willlem de Kooning, but also by his interest in Roman Catholicism and Buddhism.

George Tobia served as the longtime lawyer of John Sampas.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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September 30, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Westport, CT, US

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