Monday, July 27, 2015

The Edward Gorey Dollar Bill

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 been scandalous.
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.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Au Secours Mystery

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 etchings and 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.

Rather 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.

This 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.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Captioned for the Brain Damaged

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.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!
from Goreyana