Saturday, September 12, 2015

Edward Gorey Gets Political

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.

1 comment:

Henry said...

The spot illustration on the cover is from "The Cycle of Crime" Edward Gorey House Print, which also shows the angels and demons. When I acquired this issue a while back I was expecting the cycle of crime artwork to appear in the article (from seeing the cover on ebay). I was surprised to find a completely different yet elaborate illustration. My theory is he created the cycle of crime artwork first, and then the publishers decided they wanted the illustration to be more specific to the article. So he had to create another piece?