Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summertime Friends


 This two page spread entitled Old-Time Summer Treat is from the July 1964 issue of Friends magazine. Chevrolet produced Friends magazine from 1960 until the mid/late 60's as an auto showroom giveaway extolling the virtues of owning your own car so you could travel and see the "real" America. Edward Gorey produced numerous illustrations to accompany articles in the magazine.

Long hot summer days are made to be enjoyed with ice cream.  Even in 1964, home made ice cream appears to be a nostalgic treat from the past. The article sings its praises as a tasty family bonding activity, when in fact making ice cream at home required specialized tools, high quality ingredients, a good recipe, time and a certain amount of skill. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for the auto maker to suggest an outing in the family car to a drive in for ice cream on a hot summer day!

Friends' Art director Robert Weeks was an avid fan and collector of Mr. Gorey's works and commissioned spot illustrations for the magazine, acquiring many of the originals once they were used. In 1993 Mr. Weeks collection of books and artwork was sold through Gotham Book Mart, and the artwork for Old-Time Summer Treat was included in the pieces being offered.

I am showing a scan of the fax that Gotham Book Mart sent me when the artwork was being offered. Due to the size of the magazine, this artwork was drawn on two panels. I was not able to purchase this piece, but did acquire one of the other Friends pieces offered at that time.

Old-Time Summer Treat features delightful vignettes of children and animals at play, enjoying ice cream on a summer day with the sun smiling upon them from above. Mr. Gorey uses a playful drawing style full of movement and gentle humor for this piece. One of my favorite parts of the drawing is the small dog who is enjoying a large bowl of ice cream that presumably was left unattended by the children flying a kite.







Monday, June 25, 2018

Crosshatching As A Way Of Life


How many pen strokes did Edward Gorey make to create a single drawing? The answer, of course, will vary depending on the drawing, but the concept is intriguing.

In my previous post, I discussed the Dracula set designs and pointed out that a team of scenic artists had to translate Mr. Gorey's scaled drawings into full sized set pieces. The concept of recreating the heavily crosshatched drawings must have been a sobering assignment...which begs the question, "How many pen strokes needed to be recreated?"

For the Vault drawing shown above, I counted 270 individual stones that had to be drawn. Enlarging the image, I selected numerous stones of varying sizes and shapes and set about counting the pen strokes. My calculations determined that the stones averaged about 75 pen strokes per stone. It should be noted that on the original artwork, a large stone is about 7/16" wide by 3/8" tall and some are much smaller.

This roughly translates to 20,250 pen strokes for the stone wall alone, not including the pile of skulls or the two bodies. It also does not take into account the added pen strokes made to outline the stones and to darken the outer edge of the set piece, so it can be assumed that Edward Gorey created at least 25,000 pen strokes to make this one drawing. This drawing represents only one section of the set for Act 3 making well over a million hash marks for this sets for all three acts combined.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Dracula Set Design Original Artwork


Edward Gorey's long association with the vampire legend of Dracula began when he first read the novel by Bram Stoker as a young child. By the mid 1970's, Dracula and Edward Gorey would become forever linked to one another.


The 1970's were an incredibly prolific time for Edward Gorey. During this decade (Gorey turned 45 in 1970) he published 33 of his own works, created book covers and illustrations for works by other authors, did spot illustrations and advertisements for magazines & periodicals, created original artwork for two Fine Art exhibitions at Graham Gallery, and designed the theatrical sets and costumes, including two seminal productions of Dracula.

In the early 70's, Edward Gorey was approached to design sets and costumes for a production of Dracula that was mounted at a theater in Nantucket in 1973. The success of this production, due to Mr. Gorey's unique contributions, lead to a 1977 Broadway revival of the play, which was billed as The Edward Gorey Production of Dracula. To seal the lid on the vampire's coffin, Mr. Gorey also designed a Dracula Toy Theater in 1979 (see above photo). Two editions of the Bram Stoker novel, one produced by Barnes & Noble in 1996 and an unfinished version also have illustrations by Mr. Gorey.


For each of these ventures, Edward Gorey completely reworked and redrew all the settings and characters depicted in the story. For the Nantucket production, Mr. Gorey came up with stone wall inset with bat topped arches into which panels would be inserted to change the settings for each act of the play (see above drawing). While he never abandoned this basic format, each incarnation changed and became more layered and elaborate. The bats multiplied, and the bodies continued to pile up in subsequent interpretations.

Many of the original set drawings from both productions of Dracula are in private collections and have been included in museum exhibitions of Edward Gorey's works. These highly detailed works of art are beautifully executed and often have descriptive production notes written in the outer margins because they are the working drawings from which the scene shops created the sets.

A recent acquisition is a Dracula set drawing from Act 3 of the Broadway production. This insert panel appears on the right side of the stage in The Vault (or Crypt) and shows a catacombs style final resting place of two of Dracula's victims with a pile of discarded human skulls on the floor. A similar burial wall appears on the left side of the stage.

It should be noted that all the sets for Dracula were hand painted by talented scene shop artists. Every cross hatched line on the walls, furniture, and floor had to be recreated to size by hand...a task almost as astounding as Edward Gorey's fanatical crosshatched drawings themselves. The final photo shows actor Raul Julia in costume on the Broadway set (Mr. Julia succeeded Frank Langella in the title role).



Dracula Broadway set photos from the New York Public Library Digital Collections.





Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Auction News


The June 5 Illustration Art Auction at Swann Auction Galleries in New York City featured a nice selection of original published artwork, preliminary sketches, and working notebook sketches by Edward Gorey. The eight lots represented Mr. Gorey's work from the 1950's through 1998. Sale prices for all but one item fell within or below the pre-sale estimates, and two color sketches for book covers from the 1950's failed to sell.

Fans of the supernatural mystery book series begun by author John Bellairs and later continued by Brad Stickland had the rare opportunity to acquire a piece of artwork from The Specter from the Magician's Museum. This beautifully executed pen and ink drawing was one of the deals of the day, selling below its pre-sale estimate.

The Broadway production of Dracula was represented by three rare sketchbook pages (sold as a single lot) containing set and costume notes and sketches.

The star piece by Edward Gorey was a large pen, ink & watercolor cover design for the May 19, 1975 issue of Publisher's Weekly Magazine. This piece (shown at the top of this post) sold for almost twice its estimate.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Preservation


Building a collection of original illustration artwork is a rewarding experience that at times can also be vexing. Because the printed piece was considered the finished product, vintage illustration artwork has often been stored and treated with less than careful handling. This can result in a variety of imperfections appearing on the piece.

The most common problems with vintage illustration artwork are A) non-archival glues used to affix paste-up changes to the works B) toning and discoloration to the work because of exposure to sunlight, and C) the appearance of mold and mildew on the surface. For the serious collector, condition is an important consideration on any acquisition, and a good paper restorer can work wonders on a piece of artwork that is in need of some TLC.

The Worsted Monster had two main issues - the paste-up title change was coming off because the old glue had dried out, and there were multiple spots of mold on the surface of the artwork. After carefully removing the paste-up and neutralizing the paper, the title was repositioned using archival materials. Fortunately, the glue did not seep through and discolor the paste-up.

The more difficult restoration on this piece was the removal of mold spots that dotted the surface. The restorer spent over two hours painstakingly removing each spot of mold individually. Once all the spots were removed, the entire work was neutralized. The piece is now mold free and newly framed.









Saturday, May 5, 2018

Gorey's Worlds...Last Chance Weekend



Gorey's Worlds, the exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum closes on Sunday May 6. Here is an interesting article about Edward Gorey and the exhibition.

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/05/10/edward-gorey-art-of-elsewhere


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Auction News


The spring auction season is in full swing, and works by Edward Gorey continue to do quite well in the sales.

Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas offered The Swimming Pool, an original pen and ink drawing from The Dream World of Dion McGregor, which sold for $4250.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium). As the title suggests, the subject of this book is the author's dreams, and Edward Gorey's illustrations from this work have appropriately unusual elements.


As part of their April 26th Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics  auction, Swann Auction Galleries offered seven lots of material by Edward Gorey that included original artwork, prints, and ephemera. Three limited edition etchings, each hand signed by Mr. Gorey sold for well above their pre-sale estimates. A very rare, limited edition Doubtful Guest Doll in its original box from 1974 sold for $3750.00.


The most unusual item to be offered at the sale was a hand made Going Away Card created by Edward Gorey for a departing colleague from the time when Mr. Gorey worked at Doubleday and Company. The pen & ink with watercolor card is a one of a kind piece created with obvious affection for the co-worker.