Sunday, July 22, 2018
This beautifully rendered pen & ink drawing was originally intended for a book by Edward Gorey but either the book or the drawing were abandoned along the way. Mr. Gorey later presented this drawing to a personal friend. On artwork created for Mr. Gorey's "A" collection books, there will be a hand written date on the reverse side indicating when it was drawn. If a drawing was completed over several days, there is a start date and a finish date. When completed in a single day, there is only one date indicated. This drawing was created on October 1, 1984. Searching Mr. Gorey's published works near (and after) this date, I have not been able to determine what future book it might have been intended for. One possibility would be The Improvable Landscape (1986).
In this drawing, Edward Gorey's talent and skillful manipulation of line is supremely evident. The presence of the contemplative frog atop the urn adds an endearing touch to the work.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
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
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.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
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.
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.
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
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
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, the exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum closes on Sunday May 6. Here is an interesting article about Edward Gorey and the exhibition.