Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    DEAN CORNWELL (American, 1892-1960)
    Options, The Saturday Evening Post story illustration, March 24, 1917
    Oil on canvas
    24 x 34 inches (61.0 x 86.4 cm)
    Signed and dated lower left: Dean / Cornwell / 17

    A classic and evocative illustration from Dean Cornwell's early career, Options accompanied a short story by Clarence Budington Kelland in the March 24, 1917 edition of The Saturday Evening Post. A comic tale of revenge and redemption, "Options" features the ne'er-do-well, trust-fund kid Ulysses "Useless" Asbury from Detroit, who, with the encouragement of his savvy fiancée, Ruth, attempts to prove himself to his millionaire father, Lucius. Useless engages in a scheme to become the majority stockholder in a railroad company servicing a pulp mill in New Hampshire; when he learns that Lucius is trying to compete with him in this venture, Useless races around the East Coast to buy up shares -- options -- and beat his father to the punch. Ruth has made it clear that she will only marry Useless when he has secured the deal. Cornwell's domestic scene depicts the poignant moment when Ruth reminds the exhausted Useless that success -- and their options for the future -- are not far away:

    "Ruth was very sweet and encouraging, and thought he looked older and tired and anxious -- though she did not say so. Only encouragement and praise came from her: 'There's just two hundred and thirty-five shares between us now, Useless.' It didn't sound sentimental, but it made Useless' heart bound: for it meant that when those shares were in his hand Ruth would keep her promise to set a day for their wedding. Useless felt he was engaged in what might, and must, be the most profitable business deal ever attempted by man" (C. Kelland, "Options," The Saturday Evening Post, May 24, 1917, p. 37).

    Compositionally, Cornwell uses the patterned fabric of the sofa and chair as a backdrop for the illuminated lovers. A brilliant interpreter of human emotion, he highlights Useless' concerned countenance and suggests Ruth's support through her head nuzzling on his shoulder.

    More information about DEAN CORNWELL, also known as Cornwell, Dean, Dean Cornwell.

    Condition Report*: Lined canvas; light craquelure throughout, particularly visible under raking light; under UV exam, there appears to be inpainting along the top extreme edge to address frame wear, scattered dots in the wall as well as along the right edge, and an approx. 1/2 inch-wide vertical line of inpainting through the center of the composition. Framed Dimensions 32.25 X 42 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    2nd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 7,435

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $100,000 (minimum $14), plus 20% of any amount between $100,000 and $1,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $1,000,000 per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    This item cannot be shipped using standard methods. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold on May 2, 2015 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 2 days left to consign to the 2021 October 4 Illustration Art Signature Auction!

    Learn about consigning with us

    It would indeed have been much simpler to work with a local auction house, and we had local options. But we never once regretted going with Heritage.
    Virgene S.,
    Milwaukee, WI
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search