The original illustration, “Rescued Kitten,” sold for $3,250 recently at Swann Galleries.

Swann Galleries

WHAT: An oil on canvas painting by James Edwin Seward (1927-2012) soared to $3,250 at auction early this month. Presale estimate was $600-$900. Offered in an Illustration Art sale at Swann Galleries in New York City, the 27-inch-by-24.5-inch piece depicts a policeman on a ladder rescuing a kitten from a tree as three young boys watch. It is also signed and marked with penciled notations by the artist.

MORE: The theme could be dismissed by a cynic as gooey and sentimental, but consider Seward's background: Born in Alabama and raised in rural Tennessee, Seward earned a degree from the Art Institute of Chicago. An award-winning painter and illustrator, he created illustrations for both secular and religious press during his lifetime. By the late 1950s, Seward was ordained and had co-founded his own church where he produced religious publications.

SMART COLLECTORS KNOW: As a pastor, Seward traveled the U.S. and South Africa preaching the word.

HOT TIP: One does not expect controversial illustration art from the producer of books and magazines for Golden Books, Concordia, Nazarene, etc. Seward presented a wholesome America that no longer exists.

BOTTOM LINE: So, how to explain the fact that this image sold so high? We think nostalgia carried the day. That, plus artistic appeal, the darn cute kitten, and those innocent kids of differing colors.