Edward Gorey created A Heart-Warming Christmas for the December 1971 issue of National Lampoon Magazine. It can be truly said that the holiday pictured is anything but "heart-warming". The scene depicted is straight out of a Victorian melodrama, complete with dying child, drunken father, and the misguided benefactor bearing gifts that would, for the most part, be unwanted and not very helpful to the distressed family.
The illustration has numbers which correspond to the descriptions below the drawing, condensing into the single image a complete 22 page book's worth of information.
The key reads as follows:
1. drunken father 2. empty gin bottle 3.rabid rat 4. beaten mother 5. unpawnable object 6. remains of her wedding dress 7. frozen robin 8.motto worked in human hair 9. dying child 10. caseless pillow 11. World Without End quilt 12. Christmas tree 13. string, bones, and ticket stubs from the gutter 14. Sir Giles Crockby, the Pilchard King 15. Russian sable pelisse 16. bespoke spats 17. his Thibetan chauffeur 18. basket of glazed tropical fruits 19. the works of Goethe bound in blue Levant morocco 20. Terrine of pate de foie gras with truffles 21. antique automaton that sings 'Dal dolor cotanto oppresso' from La Clemenza di Scipione 22. box of absinthe-filled chocolates
Edward Gorey was frequently called upon to provide illustrations for Christmas themed articles in magazines. Published in the December 1966 issue of Esquire Magazine, A Chthonian Christmas is one of Mr. Gorey's more unusual holiday works.
Esquire was a monthly magazine for men, and was produced at a time when magazines were truly magazines. This generously sized issue alone clocks in at 360 pages. The cover of the magazine promises 7 "New" Deadly Sins, and this theme pervades the publication. There are articles on "Fat Power", which glorifies the rotund male, as well as a cornucopia of other subjects.
A Chthonian Christmas celebrates the darker side of the Yuletide Season. The two page illustrated spread features a beautifully detailed full page illustration by Edward Gorey. The eight vignettes illuminate the kinds of holidays none of us ever hope to encounter, from the arrival of ominous packages to a a family of children finding their father strangled in front of the mantle by one of their holiday stockings.
The illustrations on the right hand page are even more curious. The six enigmatic illustrations all show frog-like creatures mumbling obscure pronouncements. These creatures act in a similar manner to the dogs in Mr. Gorey's 1975 book, L'Heure Bleue, even if their statements are less comprehensible.
This issue of Esquire also introduces Edward Gorey's The Awful Vista of the Year, published in 1995 as The Fantod Pack ~ but that will be discussed in a future post.
In my post from November 13, 2015, I shared theatrical photos from the Broadway production of Gorey Stories which are in the collection of the New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Division. After 15 preview performances at the Booth Theater, Gorey Stories opened and closed on October 30, 1978. The production was missed by many, but it did leave behind several difficult to acquire collectibles.
The Playbill for the show (not in my collection: image from www.movietreasures.com) is quite rare, as is the lovely pinback button created for the opening night performance.
The poster for the show features a scrapbook style image showing "postcards" of the cast, title, and theater information. The drawing of the cast was recreated for one of the publicity photographs for the show, with Edward Gorey wearing one of his fur coats, standing on the right with his back to viewer.
The libretto for Gorey Stories was published by Samuel French, Inc. and it is something of a disappointment for the collector. While it reproduces all of the dialog from the play, it has almost no stage direction and no score. The musical accompaniment presumably needed to be ordered separately. Since the dialog consists almost entirely of the exact wording from the various Gorey books put on stage, and most hardcore Gorey fans can recite the words from their favorite stories by heart, there is little to learned from this volume.
There have been a number productions of Gorey Stories undertaken by theater companies since its original run, and there are several videos on YouTube. Below is a snippet from the 2010 Blackfriars Theatre production.
Here are a few more remarkable photographs from the New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Division. The images are by theater photographer Martha Swope from the 1978 Broadway production of Gorey Stories. The ill fated production played at the Booth Theater, with a total run of 16 performances. The "Entertainment with Music" played 15 previews, opened on October 30, 1978, and closed that same evening.
The most unusual thing about this collection of images is the inclusion of Edward Gorey himself along with the cast. The series of images were obviously staged publicity photographs in which Mr. Gorey is wearing one of his more luxurious fur coats. Even though his expression is serious, there is the sense that Mr. Gorey is enjoying himself in these photos.
These three things go together like bats against a full moon! I recently became aware of a stash of theatrical photographs from the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula in the digital archives at the New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Division. This extensive archive of images shows the sets, actors and production in a multitude of images that is sure to delight any fan of Edward Gorey. Access to the archive can be found HERE.
The Martha Swope photos of the original cast give a very real sense of the "Goreyesque" quality of the production. The color photographs in the collection show how Edward Gorey's sets and
costumes blended together to create and atmosphere of menace. One of my favorite images shows Frank Langella as the evil Count Dracula lying in his coffin.
This photograph shows Renfield (Richard Kavanaugh), Dr. Seward (Dillon Evans), and Van Helsing (Jack Dempsey). Renfield's costume and make-up is a particular delight. With a visage straight out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Renfield is perfectly attired in muted striped pajamas with bat clasps that identify his enslavement to the Count.
This archive is a fantastic resource for theatrical studies. The Dracula images were digitized and added to the online archive in 2013. All images are copyright: The New York Public Library.
As Halloween creeps closer, I was trying to decide which of Edward Gorey's prints had the most frightening image.Night Creature Carrying Baby Aloft is
one of Edward Gorey's most successful prints. To create this piece, Mr. Gorey
wholeheartedly embraced the medium of printmaking and produced a striking image which
could only be created through the printmaking process. I have print #40/50 in my collection.
use of shadow and light, Mr. Gorey conveys menace, darkness, and despair more convincingly than he could have in his standard cross
hatched drawing style. In person, this print has a beautiful, almost
three dimensional, inky black surface. This Night Creature does not have good intentions.
Edward Gorey modified a copy of this print by adding color to the image, and used the altered image as the
cover for a 1987 vampire compilation book (see my post from February 9, 2014). While adding color to the image worked for the dust jacket, I still prefer the original black & white print.
There are all kinds of monsters in the world. Some are imagined, some are real, and some we create ourselves. Even though the title suggests otherwise, this book of poetry by John Ciardi is a fond look at the author's life with the "monsters" he and his wife created: his three children.
Published in 1966 by J.B. Lippencott Company, The Monster Den, or Look What Happened at My House - and to It showcases 18 poems by John Ciardi, each illustrated by Edward Gorey. My copy is signed by Mr. Ciardi. John Ciardi taught at Harvard was an influential figure in Edward Gorey's development as an author/poet.
Mr. Gorey's illustrations throughout the book are whimsical and created with a light touch. Figures cavort, dance, and float in space on the page. Sometimes the family members have the heads of monsters, as shown on the dust jacket, but most often they are instantly recognizable as typical "Gorey people".
"Why is it that when we all have electricity, radios, and telephones, we still return to antiquated tales of horror?" - Edmund Wilson
Thus begins the introduction for a short story by E. Nesbit, one of the nine tales included in Mistresses of Mystery, Two Centuries of Suspense Storiesby the Gentle Sex. Selected and introduced by Seon Manley & Gogo Lewis, and published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company in 1973, this spine tingling collection of tales continues our autumnal theme of scary stories with Edward Gorey connections. Each story included in the volume is given an informative introduction with background information on the author and tale that follows.
The volume is remarkable for the beautiful three color dust wrapper illustration by Edward Gorey showing an authoress engaged in imagining tales of murder and fright. Borrowing an idea from himself which he employed in his production design for the Nantucket production of Dracula from the same year, Mr. Gorey adds two splashes of bright red to the monochromatic drawing for emphasis. Mr. Gorey also uses this exact style of coloration to great effect on his poster for the 1975 Lillian Hellman Tribute (see my post from September 19, 2009)
This volume could have only been improved by the addition of more illustrations by Mr. Gorey.
When planning your "Tricks and Treats" route of buildings and homes near The Edward Gorey House this Halloween, you may want to have Haunted Yarmouth, Ghosts and Legends from the Cape as your guidebook - both for places to visit and for buildings to avoid.
Published in 2008, this volume chronicles strange happenings and sightings in and around Yarmouth, MA. Of course, Edward Gorey's home located at 8 Strawberry Lane is included in the book. Built in 1820, Mr. Gorey purchased the home in 1979 and lived there until his death in 2000. The home is now open as the Edward Gorey House Museum. There have been several unusual incidents at the residence, both while Mr. Gorey was alive and since his passing. Visit the museum and see if you feel a cold chill down your spine in the back room!
This week's selection of scary stories which should be re-read is 1959's The Haunted Looking Glass. This is a collection of short horror stories from a variety of authors, each chosen by Edward Gorey when he was an editor at The Looking Glass Library. In addition to choosing the stories to be included, Mr. Gorey illustrated each tale with a book cover style design which appears before every story.
The spooky tales contained in this collection are often told in a first person narrative style and end with a chilling plot twist. The collection reflects Edward Gorey's omnivorous reading habits, and includes famous authors as well as stories by less well known writers. I own the original artwork from two of my favorite tales included in the book.
The Body Snatcher by Robert Lewis Stevenson is a tainted tale associated with early medical research. Mr. Gorey's expert use of line work creates just the right mood through
his mastery of light and shadow. I particularly like the composition of
this piece with the hanging skeleton presiding over the evil
proceedings. At this point in the story, a decision hangs in the balance that will haunt the participants forever.
The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs is a cautionary tale, encouraging the reader to be careful what you wish for, because it just might be what you get. Using only pen and ink on white paper, the variety in the line work on this beautiful illustration
provides a tense, moody backdrop for the scene. The theatrical effect of
the shriveled monkey's paw on the table is accentuated by the glow on
the faces and the darkening of the chairs around the circle of
onlookers. This subtle use of light and shadow makes the tiny dreaded
object the center of attention. This is my favorite illustration in the book.
In later interviews, Mr. Gorey stated that The Haunted Looking Glass was a particularly
difficult project because he did not want to give away the plot with his
illustrations. This, of course, is the challenge for all great
illustrators - to enhance and embrace the writing, luring the reader into the story, but not spoiling the experience for the reader by telling too much.
As October approaches and the leaves begin to change color, I always get in the mood to read a scary book or two. My go-to series at this time of year is the Edward Gorey illuminated John Bellairs series. I have begun the fall line-up with one of my favorites, The Chessman of Doom.
This story has all the elements of a great Bellairs' tale, with Johnny, Fergie, and cranky Professor Childermass trying to outwit an evil sorcerer who is intent on destroying the world. This title also has my favorite frontis illustration from the series created by Edward Gorey. Menacing and creepy, our intrepid trio is confronted by a skull-headed man in a cassock who shows them three coffins, which are intended to be occupied by the visitors.
Just as watching the movie Mary Poppins always results in the making of gingerbread, a side effect of reading any of John Bellairs stories is that they force you to make gooey chocolate cakes!
The world of Edward Gorey lost a friend this past week. Daniel Levans, a talented dancer, performer, teacher and director has passed away. Mr. Levans directed and choreographed Amphigorey at the Perry Street Theater in 1994 and Off Broadway's The Gorey Details in 2000.
In a 1980 Boston Magazine interview, Edward Gorey was asked by Lisa Solod, "Are you interested in politics?" Mr. Gorey stated that he was not, and, after voting once back in 1952 he did not register to vote again when he moved to New York City the following year.
While it is true that in conversations and interviews Edward Gorey held observations and had comments on virtually every subject, he rarely tackled political subject matter in his artwork. It is unusual therefore to find an illustration by Mr. Gorey for a politically themed article.
The March 1963 issue of Holiday Magazine contains a wonderful full page illustration by Edward Gorey for the article The Department of Justice. The article, written by Tristam Coffin, is the ninth in a series published in the magazine. In 1963, Robert F. Kennedy was the Attorney General, and the article illuminates the functions and responsibilities of the department he headed.
Mr. Gorey has provided a teaser illustration for the title page of the article showing angels and demons surrounding the departmental logo. One member of each pair is alternately pleased and distressed to be linked to the department.
The full page illustration is a masterwork in grey tones. Perched atop a towering stack of Federal Statutes, Blind Justice is crowned by the department's motto, Qui pro domina justitia sequitur (according to the article, this means "Who prosecutes on behalf of justice."). The detailed illustration illuminates many departmental responsibilities and concerns discussed in the article, each given a humorous twist through the insight of Mr. Gorey. Of particular note is the large robot in the lower left hand corner who is being thwarted by a departmental representative, and the "highly irregular deportation procedures" in the upper right corner.
This illustration is particularly well printed in the magazine. The quality of the reproduction shows all of Mr. Gorey's subtle watercolor effects and exacting line work in fine detail. Holiday was a large format publication, and assuming this piece was drawn life size for the magazine, this is an very large piece of art at 10 3/8" x 13.5".
One puzzling piece of artwork by Mr. Gorey is the spot illustration on the cover of the magazine. This illustration has the appearance of being cropped from a larger piece of art, but it is not found in the magazine.
9/15/15 - A viewer of this blog has informed me that this image appears on an Edward Gorey House print entitled Cycle of Crime. According to the EGH, the print was made from a previously unpublished piece of artwork. The central angels and devils also appear on the print.
Each year, the Edward Gorey House produces several limited edition
prints. The selection for 2015 includes two theater scenes and an alphabet. Each limited edition print is hand numbered and "signed"
with an embossed facsimile of Edward Gorey's signature. To purchase
prints, visit the Edward Gorey House website.
The first print is Gorey Theatre Dance. A celebratory dance of odd characters on a stage, the image is full of fantastic Gorey details. The image measures 6.5" x 7.75" (paper size is 9" x 11.75")
and appears in full color. This image was originally created for Signals catalog.
The second print is theater related image titled The Fatal Intermission.
The image measures 10" x 4.75" (paper size is 11.75" x 9"). This full color painting was created by Mr. Gorey in 1990 as the dust jacket design for 13 Plays of Ghosts & the Supernatural, collected and edited by Marvin Kaye.
The third offering, Figbash Alphabet, reunites the viewer with one of Edward Gorey's signature creatures. Figbash dances and contorts himself into each letter of the alphabet.
The image measures 9" x 14.5" (paper size is 11" x 17").
All three prints are being offered as a standard printing, a numbered limited
edition (200 copies) with an embossed signature, and a lettered limited
edition (26 copies) with an embossed signature. Contact The Edward Gorey House to order your prints today!
Edward Gorey created this cover for Ballet Review in 1967. The performer is executing La Deese Eclectique, which certainly lives up to its title. With its combination of living and fabricated assistants, the performer(s) are simply, and quite theatrically framed by tasseled ropes. One wonders what the axe is for...
In 1974, Edward Gorey created 46 pieces of original artwork for his show at the Graham Gallery entitled Plain & Coloured Drawings by Edward Gorey (see my post from February 20, 2014 for more about the exhibit). One of these pieces included in the show was Masked cat dancing beside pool, a delightful image that is perfect for a hot August day. The visible crease in the image is present because this is scan of a xerox from Mr. Gorey's personal files.
All the recent discussion about redesigning the United States' twenty dollar bill is nothing new. In May of 1968, Avant Garde Magazine invited 19 artists to contribute new designs for Revaluation of the Dollar: 19 Artists Design a New One-Dollar Bill. The article states that the magazine commissioned the designs, "on the theory that it's about time somebody did." The redesigned dollar bills are almost all 1960's political
statements in full color featuring images which at the time would have
Edward Gorey's contribution is quite beautiful and typically enigmatic. It is also one of the least politically charged of the offerings, some of which take pot shots at President Lyndon Johnson and race relations.
Swann Auction Galleries recently sold Au Secours, a signed, numbered, limited edition collagraph print by Edward Gorey. After the sale, it was brought to my attention that the print, which was hand numbered 13/50, should have been numbered from an edition of 25. What is the story behind the numbering? In French, Au Secours means "help". This is an appropriate name for this print!
As stated in previous postings, Edward Gorey created a total of 82 Fine Art etchingsand collagraph prints, and that Mr. Gorey did not follow proper print making etiquette, which would
cause him (and later his estate and collectors) many headaches over time. This is one of those times.
than produce the complete run of an image before moving on to the next print, Mr. Gorey decided to pull only 10 or 20 impressions of each print against an anticipated total print run of 25 to 95 impressions. This was done so he could keep his printing costs manageable while offering as many images as possible at one time. The first prints were hand signed and numbered 1/95 through 10/95, and when
those ten prints sold, 11/95 through 20/95 were printed, signed, and offered for sale. This would continue until the print run was complete (most runs were not completed during Mr. Gorey's lifetime) - but
the entire run for each image was never printed at one time.
irregular system meant that Edward Gorey had to keep a record of the number of
prints made to date, so he had a notebook with details on his prints. At
one point in the late 1990's, the book was mislaid and all print
production came to a halt until the book could be found (it was). This also meant that Mr. Gorey opened himself up to the possibility of making mistakes in the numbering of prints, and this apparently is what happened with Au Secours.
The first 10 impressions of Au Secours were numbered as an edition of 25 and were sold through Gotham Book Mart. When the first ten prints were sold, the second portion of the edition was attempted, but the plate fell apart after only 7 more prints were pulled. Because of this, there are only 17 impressions of this print in existence, even though the numbering indicates that a larger edition was intended.
After the Swan auction, I contacted several collectors to find out which print numbers they had. I have print #8/25 in my collection and this print was acquired from Gotham Book Mart in the 1990's. Another collector let me know that they have #4/25. Swann auctioned #13/50, and yet another collector has #17/50.
It can be reasonably assumed that Edward Gorey simply made a mistake when numbering the remaining 7 prints, putting an edition of 50 on the second set instead of the originally intended 25. This type of mistake would not have happened if the entire print run had been completed at one time.
I recently acquired this piece of original artwork by Edward Gorey. The image shows a man connected by cables to television sets, floating in a black void dotted with stars. Upon closer inspection, the stars turn out to be "sputnik" type satellites. Each television is tethered to the floating man like the legs of an octopus, and each appears to spotlight a different physical or physiological concern. The one exception is the television with the caption written on it.
It is unclear what Edward Gorey created this artwork for, but it is generally assumed that it is a periodical piece and that it was probably made for TV Guide.
This is a spot where I post photos and personal observations on pieces from my Edward Gorey collection. I welcome all discussions, questions, comments and corrections to the information posted. email@example.com All content and images are copyright 2008 - 2020 Irwin Terry