Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sam and Emma

It is rare that the reprint of an illustrated children's book is cause for celebration, but such is the case with Sam and Emma by Donald Nelson. Originally published in 1971 by Parents Magazine Press, this title is illustrated by Edward Gorey. Created during an exceptionally prolific time in Mr. Gorey's career, the book is lavishly illustrated with over 30 beautifully executed watercolor paintings.

The title characters, a gentle dog and critical cat, travel together and visit woodland creatures. Through their encounters, the cat learns to become more tolerant of creatures different from herself.

While the original printing of this title is include in most Edward Gorey collections, it is rarely a cherished volume. This is because the printing quality of the book is downright poor (see photo above). The pictures are fuzzy and out of focus giving the viewer the impression that they need glasses. For the new printing (Dover Publications Inc. 2016, see photo at the top of this post), The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust has used the original paintings from the archives and had them newly photographed. The artwork in this new printing has been very carefully executed and the paintings appear fresh and alive.

A curious feature of this volume is Edward Gorey's rendering of Emma, the critical feline. Emma's appearance in this book is a direct precursor to the Amphigorey Cat - the ubiquitous cat which will come to be known as the signature Gorey Cat. Emma is drawn with a rough coat of fur, white paws and wears a scarf and beaded necklace, but the shape of her body, tail, head, and face are almost exactly like the streamlined Amphigorey Cat which will make its official appearance one year later.

Up to this time, Mr. Gorey drew cats in a (more or less) realistic manner. Beginning with Sam And Emma, his cats took on a more vigorous and distinctive personality. Emma is seen lounging, balancing, dancing, and tripping lightly through the book in a way that will become the hallmark behavior of the Amphigorey Cat. It is also amusing to note that other animals in Sam And Emma wear bits and pieces of clothing that will be appropriated by the future Cat. Sam wears a turtleneck sweater (vertically striped as opposed to the Cat's horizontal stripes), while the raccoons will have their colorful striped scarves appropriated by the future feline.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Envelope Art Contest

The Edward Gorey House is hosting its annual Envelope Art Contest. The contest is open to all ages and is free to participate in - just decorate an envelope in your best Edward Gorey Halloween style and mail it to the House before October 24th. For an entry form, go HERE.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Auction News

On Thursday September 29th, Swann Auction Galleries offered four lots of original artwork by Edward Gorey in their Illustration Art Sale. All the artwork by Mr. Gorey in this sale related to a 1980 stage production of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. The unconventional Gorey material included the delicate drop curtain design (see above), a fantastical Cemetary where obelisks are topped with skulls, a costume design, and a lot that included six pen & ink set piece designs.

Edward Gorey was quoted on several occasions as having an interest in designing theater sets for productions that one might not associate with his particular style. While the Cemetery and costume sketch are instantly familiar to fans of Mr. Gorey's work, the set pieces have a formal architectural look that rarely betrays their author. The drop curtain design is a shining example of Mr. Gorey's deft line work. Because of the highly specific look of this piece, it is probable that the decorative motif for this piece was based on an existing architectural fragment.

All the pieces from this unusual archive were displayed at The Edward Gorey House Museum from 2008 - 2010.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Gorey Exhibition

Elegant Enigmas, the major exhibition of work by Edward Gorey, is currently pirouetting from one museum to another in Japan. During its overseas excursion, there are still places to see exhibitions of Mr. Gorey's works.

The Cranbrook Art Museum has just opened Unsettled, The Work of Edward Gorey which will remain on display through March 12, 2017. The Museum is part of The Cranbrook Academy of Art, a graduate level arts institution, and is located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

An anonymous alumnus of the institution has recently donated their Edward Gorey collection to the museum, and this is the core of this exhibition. The museum's website announcement about the exhibition can be found HERE, and an article about the show can be found HERE.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

National Post Card Week

National Post Card Week began in 1984 with the idea that the International Federation of Postcard Dealers and different clubs would create and send cards to celebrate the postcard and promote postcard collecting as a hobby.

This wonderful image of a man and his dog caught in a whirlwind of swirling postcards is the first of 13 cards created by Edward Gorey to promote the event. The Gotham Book Mart mounted an annual exhibition of antique and unique post cards in their gallery. I am slowly adding to my collection of these announcement cards.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Publishers Weekly Cover

Edward Gorey created covers for many periodicals over the course of his long career, including this wonderful 1975 image for the May 19th issue of Publishers Weekly. The issue celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of the American Booksellers Association (ABA), and includes an article about their annual convention.

Since Edward Gorey created his artwork at the size it was to be published, magazine cover illustrations represent some of his largest works.  These works are also usually done in full color, which adds to their appeal when framed. Many times the covers will include hand lettering, but often the title of the publication must be dropped in because the font and placement are part of the publications trademark. In this image, a beautiful painted blue sky occupies the top quarter of the image. On the original artwork, the lack of type above the people simplifies the images and gives the work an open, airy feel.

This whimsical cover acknowledges the passion of authors, especially when pitching their unique stories to book publishers. Each character holds their beloved, if slightly eccentric volume aloft for consideration by the ABA Angel (or bat as the case may be) who hovers above, taking notes. Mr. Gorey even makes fun of his own self published works with the barefoot, bearded man in the center offering his diaries in a "limited edition of 11 copies with an original color shapshot pasted into each one".

The original artwork for this cover is currently available from Bromer Booksellers, Here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Tale of Genji

In multiple interviews, Edward Gorey was asked about his taste in reading material and his literary inspirations. One of the novels that he consistently singled out as a favorite is The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki. While working at Anchor Doubleday, Mr. Gorey was responsible for the cover typography on this title (the copy shown above is not in my personal collection).

Largely regarded as the first "modern" novel, this work of Japanese literature was written in the early years of the 11th century and is attributed to a lady of the imperial court. Genji has a large cast of characters and a story that includes a number families and spans many years.

Genji, has been translated multiple times, and this is no small undertaking. With over four hundred individual characters, the task of translation becomes daunting when one realizes that none of the characters in the original manuscript are given proper names. Due to court etiquette, all characters are referred to only by their titles or functions, and multiple characters have overlapping titles and functions! Add this to the fact that many of the original Japanese words have multiple meanings which are open to interpretation, and a translator has their work cut out for them.

This is the kind of ambiguity that Edward Gorey reveled in and was inspired by. Mr. Gorey had multiple copies of The Tale of Genji in his personal library. These copies, along with the more than 21,000 books in his home at the time of his death, are in the permanent special collections of San Diego University. The university has been cataloging all the books and information about the collection can be found HERE.