Friday, December 12, 2014

Edward Gorey's Robots

Robots appear in illustrations throughout Edward Gorey's career. As a child and early teen in the 1930's, young Edward would have spent Saturday afternoons playing with friends and going to the movies. Movie serials became part of the Saturday afternoon theater experience in the mid-30's, with weekly installments of thrilling adventures, each ending in a cliffhanger for the hero or heroine. Many of these serials included futuristic themes with robots who were sent to do the bidding of a diabolical fiend. This was even true for the cowboy serials featuring Gene Autry!

In 1961, Edward Gorey illustrated Scrap Irony, the first of three collections of verse by Felicia Lampert. The robot featured on page 25 appears to be a cross between a piece of furniture and a robot. As with robots in the movie serials, this metal creation is supposed to be helpful, but is really thinking for itself and plotting against its inventor.
While almost all of the robots in the serial films were malevolent, Mr. Gorey's mechanical creatures tend to be helpful. Mr. Gorey also appears to stonghly associate robots with the Christmas season. Perhaps he was given a cherished toy robot as a child for Christmas. Whatever the reason, robots appear with frequency on his holiday cards.

One of Mr. Gorey's earliest Christmas robots appears to be conflicted as to whether it wants to be helpful or not. Created in the 1950's, this robot arrives at a remote location where a 1920's flapper has been chained to a rock - but who has chained her there, the robot? The robot gives a cheery "Merry Christmas" and comes bearing gifts in each of its four outstretched arms. Is this a joyous rescue for the heroine, or the cliffhanger to this weeks installment? Will a flaming Plum Pudding really help her out of her situation?
Theater on the Bay's 1993 holiday theatrical production of Blithering Christmas features a helpful robot on the program and souvenir button. It can also be noted that Edward Gorey associates alligators with the Holiday Season. In both Blithering Christmas images, the robot is being assisted by a large reptile to help the small girl. In another image, this same pair appears alongside a small boy, each taking photos of a forlorn Christmas Tree. This helpful reptile also appears without the robot on other Christmas cards.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World

Looking for a gift for the Edward Gorey collector in your life? Or perhaps you are just feeling the urge to buy a book for your Gorey collection? Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World (2014 Simor & Schuster) by Monte Beauchamp is a great addition to any collection.
The book tells the personal and professional biographies of 16 cartoon artists in the illustrated graphic novel style by a variety of contemporary artists. A wide range of popular cartoonists such as Charles Schulz, Dr. Suess and Walt Disney reside alongside names that might not be as familiar, such as Rodolphe Topffer and Osamu Tozuka. Edward Gorey is presented by illustrator Greg Clarke in a beautiful 6 page spread.

All of the biographies are beautifully presented, with well written interesting tidbits of information and fantastic illustrations in an illustrated "Wikipedia" style.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Visit to the Edward Gorey House Continued

My visit to the Edward Gorey House in October was full of pleasant surprises. One room at the far back of the house had several very interesting displays, including the puppets shown in my previous post and materials relating to the animated sequence for Mystery!. This room also contains a display of hand made stuffed creatures. The case displays the popular Figbash dolls along with other rare pieces sewn by Mr. Gorey. A pile of frogs (with different styles of feet) are joined by a rabbit, elephant, and dragon-like creature. Of particular interest is the cat - a first glance it looks like one of the printed Toy Works cats, but it is actually a hand painted version.

In their goal to display as many interesting things as possible, the room also houses a wall of illustrated books that you can look through. Part of this display is a xerox facsimile or one of Mr. Gorey's sketchbooks containing sketches for the Nantucket and Broadway productions of Dracula. I was delighted to find a page showing his sketch for the iconic poster created for the Broadway production.

Even more of a surprise was to find a page showing the original sketch for the Dracula proscenium and drop curtain used in Nantucket. The finished artwork for the proscenium is in my collection, so it was a thrill to see the sketch. All of the elements in the final artwork are present in the sketch. When the production transferred to Broadway, Mr. Gorey redesigned the proscenium and drop curtain. One can assume that the crossing out on the sketch was done as he went through his idea book and was deciding what to keep and what to re-imagine.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Visit to the Edward Gorey House

This past week, Bill and I made a visit the Edward Gorey House Museum in Yarmouthport, MA. The 2015 show focuses on Edward Gorey's self published Fantod Press books, and is on display through the end of the year.

Once again, Edward Gorey House director Rick Jones and his staff have done an exceptional job displaying pieces for the exhibition. Every room contains hundreds of objects, each with a story that can be related by the extremely knowledgeable docents - the day we visited, a gentleman named Charles was a delightful and informative companion as we walked through the show. The depth of material and information found in this year's exhibit is second to none.

Upon entering the House, visitors are greeted by a delightful Fantod Under Glass who presides over the exhibition and was created specially for the show. The first two cases you encounter on either side of this colorful fellow are worth the price of admission in themselves.

Edward Gorey created the Fantod Press to self publish The Beastly Baby, a title he was shopping around and which no publisher wanted to touch...much like the Baby itself! These original drawings are rarely seen and are unexpectedly larger in person than their printed versions - a rarity since Mr. Gorey usually drew art at the size he intended for publication. A small sculptural Baby which once belonged to Mr. Gorey is included in the case.

The display on the other side of the Fantod shows artwork from The Chinese Obelisks. On exhibit in this case is an actual mummy's hand which belonged to Edward Gorey and inspired several creepy drawings.
Edward Gorey's home has many rooms with twists, turns, nooks, and crannies which lend themselves to intimate display areas. The small scale of the original art on display is never overwhelmed by the space, and there is something to see in every corner. The interactive layout of the exhibitions also allows for multiple viewers to be in the spaces and still feel as through the show is there "just for them".

In addition to the Fantod displays, there are exhibits of other aspects of Edward Gorey's career. Of particular interest is the large (in terms of material) display showcasing Edward Gorey's relationship with Dracula. The Dracula material includes original artwork from an unfinished illustrated version of the novel, artwork, photographs, and Mr. Gorey's Tony Award from the Broadway production and original art used for the Dracula Toy Theater. The piece of artwork from the Toy Theater has to be one of the largest and most awe-inspiring pieces of original Gorey artwork I have ever seen in person.
Below is a photo of director Rick Jones with myself in Edward Gorey's kitchen, a room that contains a display of personal and interesting objects which Mr. Gorey collected and actually had arranged on his counter tops.
The 2015 show continues on weekends through the end of the year, and is not to be missed.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Limericks for Book Week

In the 1970's and early '80's, work by Edward Gorey would appear sporadically in Cricket Magazine. Cricket was started in 1973 by Marianne Carus, whose intent was to create a literary magazine for children aged 9 to 14 that could be used in the classroom. Many famous authors and illustrators were associated with the publication.

One of the earliest contributions by Edward Gorey was a limerick reprinted from a 1975 Book Week pamphlet that also included Gorey illustrations. Most of Mr. Gorey's future contributions would be as illustrator for works by other authors, but the magazine did reprint a portion of his Dancing Cats in the March 1981 issue. It appears that all contributions by Edward Gorey to Cricket were, like the two shown here, reprinted from other sources and were not made specifically for the magazine.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Iron Tonic

With the 1969 publication of The Iron Tonic: Or A Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley, Edward Gorey began his foray into publishing signed, limited edition, collectible volumes that would continue for the next 31 years. Published by the Albondocani Press in an edition of 200 numbered and 26 lettered copies, The Iron Tonic has one of the smallest runs of any first edition Gorey book.

In addition to copy #37/200 of this title (which I was able to get in the 1990's), I recently added lettered copy E/26 to my collection. The 26 lettered copies of this title have proved to be especially elusive over the years, with lettered copies rarely coming onto the market.

The Iron Tonic also has one of the earliest announcement cards heralding the sale of a new book by Mr. Gorey. The plain white card is simply printed with information and is blank on the reverse side.