Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Edward Gorey Stained Glass Original Artwork

As a youth, Edward Gorey attended the Francis Parker School in Chicago. In 1940, when he was in the 11th grade, Gorey created a stained glass window design for the annual Christmas concert. The "window" was constructed as a backdrop for the school chorus and can be seen in the background of yearbook photos from the concert.
The original cartoon for the window (stained glass window designs are called cartoons) recently surfaced, and is now in my collection. The design is rendered in pencil and crayon, and depicts three monks raising their tankards which are being filled by a winged cherub holding grapes turning into wine. The flying figure is also holding a curling banner with an inscription. The words are penciled on the left side of the drawing and seem to be "cum beatitudinibus Bacchi" or approximately "with blessed and blissful drunken revelers".

The shape of the original cartoon was an elaborate rounded arch, but this was changed to a simpler Gothic arch for the final piece. The change in shape is indicated in pencil on the drawing. The piecework on the original cartoon is also quite complicated. When the set piece was built, much of the line work was simplified, and the cherub's positioning was changed. He no longer holds the banner which floats above the heads of the monks, and it appears that his wing now covers his bare bottom!

The completed "window" gave the stage a "church" backdrop for the choir, as can be seen in the black and white yearbook photos, however the subject matter of the design is an interesting choice.
In the original cartoon, Gorey added details which gave each monk personality and showed them enjoying their alcoholic beverages. Their smiling faces and red noses indicate that a good time is being had by all! These details are difficult to see clearly in the yearbook photos of the choir with the finished piece, but they appear to be less prominent.
To enlarge the design, Edward Gorey began by drawing a grid and numbering each square. This is a basic method that art students are taught for drawing an image to scale. When a larger grid is created, the image within each square is enlarged to the size of the new square. This allows the artist to easily recreate the image at the larger size without distortion.

It's difficult to say whether the finished window may have been backlit. The yearbook does refer to the room being darkened as the Special Chorus entered to take their place onstage with the regular chorus, in front of "a beautiful stained glass window". While the window design looks like a stained glass window, further changes would be needed to be able to truly render this design in glass. There are several pieces with severe in-cuts that would not be possible if the design were to be actually created in glass.


BeckoningChasm said...

That's a pretty amazing find. It's fascinating that Mr. Gorey continues to surprise.

I wonder if there's ever been a really good biography written of Edward Gorey. If not yet so, it should probably be written by you!

ampootozote said...

There are a couple new books on the horizon and/or in the works about Edward Gorey, of which at least one is a biography.