Three original paintings and five cartoons created by various artists, some from Connecticut, for The New Yorker magazine were about to be shipped to an auction house in Texas when its owners stumbled upon the Westport Historical Society's exhibits, "Cover Story: The New Yorker in Westport" and "Can't Tell a Book by its Cover" -- and inspiration struck.

The owners -- who asked not to be identified -- attended the opening of the exhibits in January and saw that Charles Saxon was one of the artists represented. Among their artwork headed for auction was one of Saxon's watercolor and pen and ink drawings of a cartoon published in the 1970s. Recognizing a rare opportunity to augment the exhibit and raise funding for the local historical society, the Weston family re-routed their New Yorker works from Texas to downtown Westport, where they were offered Friday night in a special sale.

The sale of the works, offered at prices below the appraised values, gave local collectors a chance to own a piece of the magazine's history and to support the historical society.

"This (historical society) is so beautiful and so important. History is everything. It has to be preserved for generations to come," said one of the owners of the eight New Yorker art pieces.

"It has to be celebrated, too," said Victoria Sybelnik, a member of the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection committee.

The exhibit celebrates the art of 17 New Yorker artists who lived in and around Westport and Weston. Collectively, between 1925 and 1989, they produced 767 New Yorker covers, 44 of which were inspired by Westport scenes, including Albert Hubbell's Aug. 20, 1973, cover featuring a painting of Compo Beach.

In addition to Saxon, the special sale featured three signed paintings by Charles E. Martin of New York scenes that were featured on the cover of The New Yorker on Sept. 19, 1977; Sept. 19, 1983, and June 14, 1978, as well as cartoons by James Stevenson, Peter Arno and Frank Modell.

One of the owners told viewers Friday that there is a sharp contrast in the sense of humor then and now. The New Yorker cartoons were able to poke fun at academia, corporate America and the affluent in a more light-hearted way. Today's humor, not in The New Yorker but in the general masses, is more biting and less affective, he said. "It has a harder edge to it."

"Everyone always loves the New Yorker cartoons. They're smart and some of them are witty," Sybelnik said.

The original cartoon by Modell, who lives in Guilford and attended the opening in January, depicts a gathering of people around a table for the reading of a will and the caption beneath reads: "The will reads as follows: `Being of sound mind and disposition I blew it all."

Of the special sale, Susan Gold, the historical society executive director, said "This enhances the show. It's a way to bring people together to enjoy the exhibit and we're going to benefit from the sale of this original art." Gold said funding will support the organization's ongoing exhibits program.

Meanwhile, the public can enjoy the New Yorker exhibit a bit longer. The current exhibit was due to conclude on April 26 but has been extended until July 5.

For details about the exhibits, check here: