Saturday, October 17, 2020

Auction News - Gogol Cover Painting


At the end of August, Nate Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles sold two original watercolor paintings by Edward Gorey. The first piece was an unpublished work from the early 1950's (see my post from August 30, 2020). The second painting is the preliminary cover art sketch for Tales of Good and Evil by Nicolai V. Gogol, published by Anchor Books in 1957. This piece sold for over $16,000.00 (including buyer's premium).

At first glance, the original artwork (above) and the printed book cover (below) appear to be the same piece of artwork, but they are two versions of the same cover design. This initial confusion is a testament to how thorough and precise Edward Gorey could be when mapping out his ideas and then redrawing/painting them for the final piece.

In the original artwork, the watercolor washes are expressively painted with bold brush strokes. The line quality of the crosshatched areas appears conversational and casual, applied with a lightness that attests to the quick movement of the pen strokes. The typography is completely indicated and correct but has a loose, carefree appearance, some of it even looking like a scribble. Even though the scene depicted is menacing and the landscape treacherous, the original art has a freshness and openness that draws one into the piece.

The final artwork, as shown on the book cover, is more controlled than the sketch. All the elements are precisely intact, but the line work has been tightened up and the watercolor washes appear intentionally less expressive. Even though the final image is more technically coherent, it lacks some of the carefree freshness of the sketch. The lightness of strong horizontal path with the horse and sleigh gives the impression that the paperback book cover has been folded. The precision of the final version highlights the tension in the scene, making the playfulness of the woman more acute and her fate more disturbing. Hopefully, the Femme Fatale with her exposed flesh and open shouldered ball gown will soon be returning indoors. Everyone else in the scene is considerably muffled up against the elements.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Happy 12th Anniversary Goreyana!

On October 5, 2008 I began this blog about all things Edward Gorey as a way to reconnect with my collection and to share information and stories that I had picked up over the years.

The Gotham Book Mart had closed in 2007 and with that closing, a major source of information about Edward Gorey and his works had ceased to exist. GBM had never embraced the internet and it was difficult to find accurate information about his works, so I felt there was an informational void that I could possibly help fill.

Over the past 12 years, I have been continually delighted and honored by the number of people who have written to tell me that they found helpful information in my blog posts. 

Thank you for checking out my blog posts and offering your insights and comments. I look forward to the beginning of year 13 of Goreyana and to celebrating the life and works of Edward Gorey.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Auction News: The John Dressler-Carollo Auction


After several years of Edward Gorey's original works realizing strong prices and setting new sales records, the Nate Sanders Auctions sale (via Live Auctioneers) on Wednesday September 30, 2020 ended with just one original drawing selling. The auction showcased thirteen pieces of exciting artwork from collector John A. Dressler-Carollo's collection. The collection ranged from mid 1950's Anchor paperback covers to the title page illustration for The New York Times Quiz Book from 1986.

Many pieces received bids but only one, the frontispiece illustration from John Bellair's The Dark Secret of Weatherend met its reserve price, ultimately selling for $5120.00 (including buyers premium). Artwork from the popular Bellairs' series rarely become available and this piece had multiple bids.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Diana Rigg



Famed actress Dame Diana Rigg passed away on September 10, 2020 at the age of 82. Ms. Riggs hosted the popular weekly PBS television series Mystery from 1989 to 2003, following the departure of the ailing Vincent Price. Each introduction was filmed in a setting designed by Edward Gorey. Several of her introductions and conclusions can be found on YouTube such as the one here:

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Two Gentlemen in a Library


Two exciting pieces of original artwork by Edward Gorey recently appeared at auction. The first piece was created in the early 1950's and is part of a series of drawings created by Mr. Gorey the scope of which has remained largely unknown until recently. An archive of 26 related drawings from this series was discussed in my blog post here: (The second piece from the auction will be discussed in an upcoming post.)

In this piece, two gentlemen are shown in discussion within a library where one of the men is in a colorful robe and slippers is settled on a chaise lounge reading a book with refreshments near at hand as if he is spending the day relaxing at a spa. The second gentleman is dressed in a fur trimmed greatcoat and is holding a small idol. He has stopped by the library to briefly discuss something with the reclining man. Even more unusual than the setting are the curling blue tattoos covering the second man's head and exposed hands. The tattoos mimic the pattern on the velvet pillow and the design of the carpet. This piece has a beautifully balanced composition and a masterful use of color.

I first saw this piece at the "new" Gotham Book Mart sometime between 2004 and 2006 when it was offered to me by Andreas Brown. Unfortunately, at the time I was unable to add this piece to my collection. Mr. Brown was unsure where to place this piece in Edward Gorey's artistic timeline and he told me it was an early drawing that Mr. Gorey watercolored "for fun" in the 1960's. With the recent discovery of numerous related pieces in private collections and within the Gorey Archive, research by various people (including Mr. Brown before his passing) is revealing the correct history of this piece and Mr. Gorey's early works.

Beginning in the late 1940's, Edward Gorey created a series of wildly extravagant pen & ink and watercolor pieces. Each of these works featured gentlemen who have collectively become know as "Earbrass" in reference to the main character in Mr. Gorey's first published work, The Unstrung Harp (Duell, Sloane and Pierce/Little, Brown and Company, 1953). Viewed as a suite of drawings, it is obvious that Mr. Gorey was stretching his artist muscles, honing his technique and refining how he would create images. His figure changes in subtle ways, as does his technique, growing more confident until the publication of The Unstrung Harp. With its solid composition, fully formed figures and confident use of color, Two Gentlemen in a Library would have been completed between 1950 and 1953.

While there are many black and white drawings from this time period, Edward Gorey boldly experimented with color and subject matter in these pieces.  The Russian Tea (this piece was sold at Swann in 2019) has muted tones of brown, blue, green and purple, while Orange Sky (a piece in the Gorey Archives that was featured on Instagram and Facebook) is almost blinding in it choice of saturated color. It should be noted that these works were not titled by Mr. Gorey as they were created as stand alone pieces and were not part of a narrative storyline. Each piece stands alone amongst its siblings and each piece suggests an intriguing self contained narrative.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Plunger Artwork


The recent Illustration Art auction at Swann Auction Galleries offered six lots of original artwork by Edward Gorey. The lots represented three distinct drawing styles practiced by Mr. Gorey - the classic finely detailed pen & ink drawing, a loose watercolor painting style, and Mr. Gorey's "cartoon" style.

Edward Gorey often worked in the cartoon style for pieces that would appear in magazines, poster designs, and newspapers. The look is bold and less detailed than his traditional drawing style for a reason - these images would be printed smaller or considerably larger than the artwork itself and for the image to "read" properly the details are simplified. The cartoon style often includes shots of bright watercolor details that would make the image "pop" on the page.

Two pieces included in the sale were (most likely) created for The Harvard Review. Each drawing shows formally attired people with brightly colored plungers presumably covering holes in the floor and walls. The first drawing shows a man and a woman working to plug up holes in a confined space, while in the second two couples are being menaced by giant snakes as they work. The attire and look of the people in both drawings calls to mind 1960's British "mod" fashions which Edward Gorey often used to costume people in his magazine illustrations. The first, smaller vertical drawing is now in my personal collection.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Habitions Mental Illness

One of the more "original" pieces of original artwork by Edward Gorey included in the July 16, 2020 Illustration Art Auction at Swann Galleries was Habitions Mental Illness. This piece is something of a humorous enigma. The title, written in pencil across the bottom of the drawing by someone other than Mr. Gorey is presumably correct, but no publication has yet been discovered. In the upper right hand corner, Andreas Brown's distinctive handwriting says, "UNPUBLISHED?", but this was probably a guess on the part of Mr. Brown.

Most likely, this piece was done for a magazine article. The denotation "Right" suggests that it is possibly one half of a pair of drawings or that there was a title to the left on a facing page. The artwork has the notation, "For Aaron Fine" and is signed in ink. The figures and signature are stylistically consistent with pieces drawn in the late 1960's and 70's. There is a gentle matte line above and below the image which indicates that the piece was framed and displayed for a time in a home or office and exposed to sunlight in the frame.

Mr. Gorey often gifted or sold drawings to professional colleagues (agents, editors, publishers, art directors, etc.), friends, or fans who showed an appreciation for his efforts. During the 90's there was heightened interest from collectors in obtaining original artwork, and The Gotham Book Mart was the place where a knowledgeable collector began their search. Gotham bought and sold collections and individual pieces of original artwork and it can be presumed that Mr. Fine or his estate sold the drawing to Gotham in 1998 and that Andreas Brown then sold the piece to a collector. 

Each person depicted in this piece is in a state of physical and mental distress. The physical maladies are best described as quirky. The woman holding the hatchet has two right hands! Given the overall subject of this piece, this may have been intentional, but one has to admit it is odd.

A favorite, slightly racy member of the party is the woman in the upper left corner who is holding what appears to be a breast in each hand. Are her breasts detachable or is she considering enhancement surgery? 

Mr. Gorey has painted in the background using a brush and black ink instead of cross hatching the entire drawing. In the photo of the artwork the brush strokes are obvious. When the image was printed, the black would solidify. This piece is a prime example of how a piece will change when printed, and how Mr. Gorey understood exactly how the printed image would turn out.