It’s Day 149 and I have to admit that I’ve been putting off this artist for a while…moved him back and back because of intimidation and feeling overwhelmed in what and how I wanted to go about painting/illustrating my tribute. He’s one of my favorites of all time. I finally hunkered down this morning and told my self not to put him off any longer…to come up with something meaningful and captured his spirit. I think I succeeded so please join me in celebrating Edward Gorey today.
Edward St. John Gorey (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000) was an American writer and artist noted for his illustrated books. His characteristic pen-and-ink drawings often depict vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings.
Edward St. John Gorey was born in Chicago. His parents, Helen Dunham (née Garvey) and Edward Lee Gorey, divorced in 1936 when he was 11, then remarried in 1952 when he was 27. One of his stepmothers was Corinna Mura (1909–1965), a cabaret singer who had a small role in the classic film Casablanca as the woman playing the guitar while singing “La Marseillaise” at Rick’s Café Américain. His father was briefly a journalist. Gorey’s maternal great-grandmother, Helen St. John Garvey, was a popular nineteenth-century greeting card writer and artist, from whom he claimed to have inherited his talents.
Gorey attended a variety of local grade schools and then the Francis W. Parker School. He spent 1944 to 1946
in the Army at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, and then attended Harvard University, beginning in 1946 and graduating in the class of 1950, where he studied French and roomed with poet Frank O’Hara.
In the early 1950s, Gorey, with a group of recent Harvard alumni including Alison Lurie (1947), John Ashbery (1949), Donald Hall (1951), and Frank O’Hara, amongst others, founded the Poets’ Theatre in Cambridge, which was supported by Harvard faculty members John Ciardi and Thornton Wilder.
He frequently stated that his formal art training was “negligible”; Gorey studied art for one semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1943.
From 1953 to 1960, he lived in New York City and worked for the Art Department of
Doubleday Anchor, illustrating book covers and in some cases, adding illustrations to the text. He illustrated works as diverse as Dracula by Bram Stoker, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. In later years he produced cover illustrations and interior artwork for many children’s books byJohn Bellairs, as well as books begun by Bellairs and continued by Brad Strickland after Bellairs’ death.
His first independent work, The Unstrung Harp, was published in 1953. He also published under pen names that were anagrams of his first and last names, such as Ogdred Weary, Dogear Wryde, Ms. Regera Dowdy, and dozens more. His books also feature the names Eduard Blutig (“Edward Gory”), a German language pun on his own name, and O. Müde (German for O. Weary).
The New York Times credits bookstore owner Andreas Brown and his store, the Gotham Book Mart, with launching Gorey’s career: “it became the central clearing house for Mr. Gorey, presenting exhibitions of his work in the store’s gallery and eventually turning him into an international celebrity.”
Gorey’s illustrated (and sometimes wordless) books, with their vaguely ominous air and
ostensibly Victorian and Edwardian settings, have long had a cult following. Gorey became particularly well-known through his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! in 1980, as well as his designs for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Costume Design. He also was nominated for Best Scenic Design. In the introduction of each episode of Mystery! Vincent Price would welcome viewers to “Gorey Mansion”.
Because of the settings and style of Gorey’s work, many people have assumed he was British; in fact, he only left the U.S. once, for a visit to the Scottish Hebrides. In later years, he lived year-round in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, where he wrote and directed numerous evening-length entertainments, often featuring his own papier-mâchépuppets, an ensemble known as Le Theatricule Stoique. The first of these productions, Lost Shoelaces, premiered in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on August 13, 1987. The last was The White Canoe: an Opera Seria for Hand Puppets, for which Gorey wrote the libretto, with a score by the composer Daniel James Wolf. Based on Thomas Moore’s poem The Lake of the Dismal Swamp, the opera was staged after Gorey’s death and directed by his friend, neighbor, and longtime collaborator Carol Verburg, with a puppet stage made by his friends and neighbors, the noted set designers Herbert Senn and Helen Pond. In the early 1970s, Gorey wrote an unproduced screenplay for a silent film, The Black Doll.
Gorey was noted for his fondness for ballet (for many years, he religiously attended all performances of the New York City Ballet), fur coats,
tennis shoes, and cats, of which he had many. All figure prominently in his work. His knowledge of literature and films was unusually extensive, and in his interviews, he named Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Francis Bacon, George Balanchine, Balthus, Louis Feuillade, Ronald Firbank, Lady Murasaki Shikibu, Robert Musil,Yasujirō Ozu, Anthony Trollope, and Johannes Vermeer as some of his favorite artists. Gorey was also an unashamed pop-culture junkie, avidly following soap operas and television comedies such as Petticoat Junction and Cheers, and he had particular affection for dark genre series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman: The Animated Series, and The X-Files; he once told an interviewer that he so enjoyed the Batman series that it was influencing the visual style of one of his upcoming books. Gorey treated television commercials as an art form in themselves, even taping his favorites for later study. Gorey was especially fond of movies, and for a time he wrote regular reviews for the Soho Weekly under the pseudonym Wardore Edgy.
After Gorey’s death, one of his executors, Andreas Brown, turned up a large cache of unpublished work, some completed, some incomplete. Brown described the find as “Ample material for many future books and for plays based on his work.”
Although Gorey’s books were popular with children, he did not associate with children much and had no particular fondness for them. Gorey never married, professed to have little interest in romance, and never discussed any specific romantic relationships in interviews. In the book The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, published after Gorey’s death, his friend Alexander Theroux reported that when Gorey was pressed on the matter of his sexual orientation, he said that even he was not sure whether he was gay or straight. When asked what his sexual orientation was in an interview, he said,
I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly. I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something … I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t … what I’m trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else …
Edward Gorey agreed in an interview that the “sexlessness” of his works was a product of his asexuality.
From 1995 to his death in April 2000, the normally reclusive artist was the subject of a cinema-style documentary directed by Christopher
Seufert. (As of 2014, the film has screened as a work-in-progress with NPR and the accompanying book is yet to be released.) He was interviewed onTribute To Edward Gorey, an hour-long community, public-access television cable show produced by artist and friend, Joyce Kenney. He contributed his videos and personal thoughts. Edward served as a judge at Yarmouth art shows and enjoyed activities at the local cable station, studying computer art and serving as cameraman on many Yarmouth shows. His Cape Cod house is called Elephant House and is the subject of a photography book entitled, Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. The house is now the Edward Gorey House Museum.
Gorey left the bulk of his estate to a charitable trust benefiting cats and dogs, as well as other species, including bats and insects.
Gorey is typically described as an illustrator. His books may be found in the humor and cartoon sections of major bookstores, but books such as The Object Lesson have earned serious critical respect as works of surrealist art. His experimentations – creating books that were wordless, books that were literally matchbox-sized, pop-up books, books entirely populated by inanimate objects – complicates matters still further. As Gorey told Richard Dyer of The Boston Globe, “Ideally, if anything were any good, it would be indescribable.” Gorey classified his own work as literary nonsense, the genre made most famous by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.
In response to being called gothic, he stated, “If you’re doing nonsense it has to be rather awful, because there’d be no point. I’m trying to think if there’s sunny nonsense. Sunny, funny nonsense for children – oh, how boring, boring, boring. As Schubert said, there is no happy music. And that’s true, there really isn’t. And there’s probably no happy nonsense, either.”
Biography is from wikipedia.
I ended up painting and doing pen and ink for my piece today. I also spent a good time emulating his unique font-type/handwriting for this piece as well. It took a good amount of time for how simple the piece is, but I’m glad I spent that time because I am pleased with how it turned out! It’s also a cathartic and personal piece. I hope you enjoy it and I will see you tomorrow on Day 150. 150! Can you believe it? I can’t. Now to go and work on my chapter I’m submitting for my writing group and then working on my new book.
The image with monsters behind/above a fence and a child walking in front–yellow paper is not an Edward Gorey. It is aJohn Kenn piece.