Winnipeg outbids art lovers for Pooh painting

There were some tense moments during the bidding, but a museum in Winnipeg ended up closing a chapter Thursday in its efforts to buy the only known oil painting of Winnie the Pooh.

The picture of the world-famous bear, named after the city, sold for $243,000. It was painted by Ernest Howard Shepard, who illustrated A. A. Milne's children's classic.

Pooh is shown gazing lovingly into a honey pot, undoubtedly convinced that it's time for "a little smackerel of something" sweet.

The 1930s painting, which was auctioned by Sotheby's in London, attracted bidders from across Europe, the United States and Canada.

Before the sale, the value of the framed artwork was estimated at between $44,000 and $66,000.

The painting will be the first exhibit for Winnipeg's Pavilion Gallery Museum.

David Loch, an art dealer representing the City of Winnipeg, made the winning bid over the phone while on a trip to Toronto. He was hooked up to Sotheby's as journalists hovered around him, waiting to find out if the painting would be heading to the Prairies.

At one point it looked as though someone else might snatch up the painting, as the price was pushed above $200,000, but the musuem refused to give up.

Loch said the money came from government grants as well as donations made by Winnie the Pooh lovers in Canada.

"He's the best loved figure in the world," Loch said.

The bear's origins date back to 1914 when Captain Harry Colbourn left Winnipeg to fight in the First World War. While the train was stopped in White River, Ont., Colbourn found a bear cub and named him "Winnie" after his hometown.

The bear travelled to Europe with Colbourn and eventually found a home at the London Zoo.

That's where the author Milne, and his son Christopher Robin, became fans.

Milne eventually put the silly old bear on the map by writing the Winnie the Pooh series first published in the London Daily News in 1925.