Edward Gorey (1925 - 2000) was born on this date 99 years ago!
Friday, February 16, 2024
Edward Gorey was a imaginative illustrator who was master at creating intricately detailed artworks. While his drawings are highly prized and collected as works of art in their own right, Mr. Gorey's original intention in creating the pieces was to illustrate books, stories, articles, cards and posters. Because his focus was on how and image would be reproduced rather than on the artwork itself, it is not unusual to find corrections on the original art.
Trained "on the job" while working at Anchor Publishing in the 1950's, Edward Gorey intimately understood the printing process of the time and knew how to best create images for reproduction. As an illustrator for hire, he also understood printing deadlines and would take the most expedient path to finishing a piece. This meant that when a drawing required a change, he would have to decide how to fix the problem swiftly. His three options were to either rework, repair, or redraw the piece of artwork.
Rework - The simplest way to correct an errant line in a pen and ink illustration is to use opaque white paint. This method is universally adapted by illustrators but not by fine artists. A small dab of opaque white paint is applied to hide the offending line which then becomes invisible when photographed for printing.
This correction is usually noticeable to the naked eye when viewing the art in person but since the intent of the drawing is reproduction, the fix is invisible in the final printed piece. These quick fixes can sometimes become quite noticeable if the paper tones over time whereas the paint remains bright white.
The paper for both the Fonthill dust jacket/spine and the Un Cadeau Ennuyeux pieces have toned over time to show the painted corrections. The Fonthill drawing, which shows rather extensive correction appears to have been completely finished when something was either spilled nearby or there was an ink spatter while creating the work. The Un Cadeau Ennuyeux correction is a minor typography fix which would hardly call attention to itself but for the discoloration of the paper.
Repair - For more extensive changes, the illustrator can repair an image by "pasting up" a new piece of paper over the problem area and then correcting the image. This choice is most often employed because the drawing has been completed or is nearing completion, so the artist uses this method to make major adjustments to the image rather than starting over. Paste-ups are be found fairly frequently on Edward Gorey's illustrations, especially when typography within the image needs to be changed.
The repair is usually very obvious when the art is viewed in person, but once again is invisible to the camera. Edward Gorey favored a quick drying library paste for these fixes. Unfortunately, this glue turns dark brown fairly quickly, so it is not unusual to see traces of the glue around the paste-up area. Depending on the paper itself and the gusto with which it was applied, the glue can also leave a dark stain that seeps through to the surface of the overlay. This archively problematic glue also becomes brittle as it drys out and it is not unusual to find the paste-up curling or falling off the surface of the drawing.
When Scrap Irony went into a second printing and changed publishers, Edward Gorey modified the original artwork with two paste-ups. The date was changed from 1961 to 1962 and that paste up is still in place today. The larger paste-up with the publisher's name change fell off and was lost before I acquired this piece of art. The discoloration from the glue residue is clearly seen on the woman's scarf.
The cover art for The Worsted Monster, an unpublished book created in the 1950's by Edward Gorey, clearly shows the title paste-up precariously held in place by dried out glue. Nudging the paste-up, the title fell off quite easily to expose the original title lettering.
After neutralizing the dried glue, the original title was reattached to the artwork using archival materials.
Redraw - The most extreme method of fixing a drawing is to start over completely. This is undertaken either because the image needs so many changes that it cannot be modified, or because the artist realizes very quickly that they should stop and begin again.
A prime example of replacing an image is Les Insectes Cyclistes from The Broken Spoke (1976). Initially assumed to be a sketch for the final art, it becomes obvious that Edward Gorey was working on the final artwork when he changed his mind as to how he was rendering the long legged insect's antenna. In the abandoned attempt, the antenna is lush and feathery while in the final artwork, the antenna is drawn as a thin line.The precision in which the first attempt is executed clearly shows that Edward Gorey was creating a final piece of art. Mr. Gorey always started finished drawings by laying down the razor thin border line that would determine the perimeter of the drawing. When sketching out an idea, he might indicate a border but would not take care to render a finely defined line. The figures would also be more loosely rendered in a sketch. So why start over rather than fix with a dab of paint or a paste-up?
The answer lies in the fact that the drawing was in the very early stages and the background was going to be delicately painted in yellow watercolor. Watercolor paint will not cover white correction paint and the edges of the paper used for a paste-up prevent an even surface to the watercolor, so Mr Gorey decided it was best to begin the drawing over.
When considering a purchase of a piece of illustration art, some collectors shy away from works with noticeable corrections, while others celebrate the changes because they show the thought process and involvement of the artist while creating the piece.
Images from my collection, and courtesy Russell Lehrer, Swann Auction Galleries and Freeman's/Hindman Auction House
Monday, January 1, 2024
With the New Year's Eve fireworks still ringing in everyone's ears, 2024 started with a bang at Nadeau's Auction Gallery in Windsor, Connecticut. Their Annual New Year's Day auction included one piece of original art by Edward Gorey. Tennis was #25 of the 46 pieces of original art Mr. Gorey created for his 1974 Graham Gallery exhibition and sale in New York City. Tennis sold for $11,520.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium), signaling a promising start for pieces by Edward Gorey that may come to auction in the coming year.
Last year the Gorey auction scene also began strong in January 2023 with a $7500.00 price for the cover art Edward Gorey created for the novel Fonthill in 1973. In an enexpected move, this piece of art reappeared at a different auction house in June and failed to sell.
A complete set of the limited edition etchings Edward Gorey created with Diogenes in 1978 (each print numbered 59/120) sold for $3144.00 at Rago Arts and Auction Center on June 1st, 2023.
The next auction of Gorey original artworks was the highly anticipated The Edward Gorey Cocktail Party; or, A Nocturne At The Strand fundraiser hosted by the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust on August 9th. Seven pieces of original art were auctioned at the charity event including Cat on a mantle. which sold for $3600.00. (see the blog postings from August 2023 to view all the art that was sold).
The fall auction schedule had a strong showing with four original works by Edward Gorey selling at Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas on October 6. The three lots shown above are a two page spread Three Ladies beside the Sea which sold for $7500.00, Fibroid Studge from The Unrest-Cure which sold for $6000.00 and two drawings from Merry, Rose and Christmas Tree June which were sold together for $3500.00.
A fourth drawing Scottish Fling is a lively dance image created for use as a note card for the New York City Ballet. This piece sold for $4250.00.
Freeman's Auction House dominated the Gorey auction scene with their sale on November 16th that included five original works by Edward Gorey. The star of the event, which included numerous works by Mr. Gorey from the collection of Valerie and Matthew Young was A stunning full color painting titled Contestants in the annual Trans-Novaya Zemlya Bicycle Race that sold for $15,120.00. This piece was created for The Broken Spoke in 1976.
In addition to original art by Edward Gorey, numerous books, prints, posters, stuffed creatures and ephemera have appeared throughout the year at various auction venues, book fairs, and through rare book dealers giving collectors a wide selection of material to covet and acquire. Here's hoping that 2024 will generate even more collecting enthusiasm and excitement.
(photos courtesy of Nadeau's Auction House, Swann Auction Galleries, Rago Arts and Auction Center, Freeman's Auction House, and The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)
Tuesday, December 26, 2023
The holiday season was extra Goreylicious this year. Over the past few years, my husband Bill has been creating Earbrass-inspired toys as gifts for me. This year he wanted to create a multipurpose figurine/tree topper inspired by the floating angels Edward Gorey would feature in Christmas Card images. Balancing on one toe, the Earbrass Angel is bringing a tinsel garland to festoon a Christmas tree.
The Angel joins the three other toy figurines he has made annually. The Angel comes complete with a church steeple shaped base to hover above. The body of the Angel has a large spring that gives him a distinctive wobble.
Bill designed the Angel to be easily removable from the steeple and also made a large spring shaped support so he can be used on a Christmas tree.
Monday, December 11, 2023
Edward Gorey hated Christmas.
This oft repeated statement has grown to mythic status, no doubt encouraged Edward Gorey's gleeful hyperbole on the subject when asked about the holiday season. But is the statement fact? If Edward Gorey did indeed hate Christmas, he certainly didn't express his disdain through his art. In fact, almost every Christmas image he created expresses a childlike wonder and sense of good will for the season.
Beginning in the late 1940's and continuing throughout his career Edward Gorey created so many delightful holiday images that the Christmas Season is a major collecting subcategory within his work. There have been multitudes of Gorey Christmas collectibles produced in the form of books, greeting cards, post cards, gift tags, wrapping paper and mugs. Even with so much material, it is rare to come across Christmas themed original artwork available for purchase.
It was a special thrill therefore to be able to have the opportunity to acquire an exceptional piece of original Gorey art with a Christmas theme. Christmas in the Eggplant Hills is a pen and ink drawing created for the Albondocani Press in 1989. The image graced a limited edition Christmas card that was printed in a run of 400 cards. This was the ninth of ten Christmas card images that Edward Gorey created between 1975 and 1990 for the Press.
When publisher George Bixby would ask Edward Gorey to create Christmas card images for the Albondocani Press, it was not until the artwork arrived that Mr. Bixby knew what the images would be. Eggplant Hills is one of more enigmatic and quirky drawings created for the series and is full of wonderful details. With the assistance of a long necked creature of unspecified origin, rabbits dressed in "Christmas plaid" are decorating an effigy (or possibly a scarecrow) with baubles. The endearingly childlike characters look like they stepped out of a nursery toy box as they diligently set about their decorating.
Christmas in the Eggplant Hills is one of three pieces of original art from the Albondocani Christmas card series that was listed by W. C. Baker Rare Books & Ephemera. The second piece of art, In Stubville, Nebraska... is another delightful holiday image that includes a man in one of Edward Gorey's signature fur coats. It was difficult to decide which of these two pieces to acquire and in the end the more esoteric image won out. The Stubville artwork sold to another collector.
The third piece of art from the Albodocani Christmas card series was sold by Mr. Baker to another collector. Un cadeau ennuyeux (the boring gift) shows a stunned couple taking in the extravagantly spindly plant that the maid has just unwrapped. George Bixby never knew what would arrive from the artist when he asked for a Christmas card image and, like the Eggplant Hills image, this drawing is another prime example of expecting the unexpected from Edward Gorey's fertile imagination.
W.C. Baker Rare Books and Ephemera is currently listing the Joyeux Noel piece of original art by Edward Gorey shown at the top of this post. This rare piece of original artwork was created in the very early 1950's and while Christmas themed, it is not part of the Albondocani holiday series. (the sales listing for the Joyeux artwork can be found HERE)
(Images by Irwin Terry and courtesy W.C. Baker Rare Books and Ephemera)
Saturday, November 25, 2023
My husband Bill Campbell and I celebrate our anniversary on Thanksgiving Day. For the past few years he has created a sculpture or toy for me inspired by Edward Gorey's character Mr. Earbrass. This year's anniversary gift was a collaborative effort between the two of us - a cane inspired by Mr. Gorey's illustration C is for Cane. from an unfinished alphabet in the Gorey Archives.
Bill started by referencing the drawing and hand carving the head out of wood. The wooden head was painted and a rubber mold was created so we could pour the head in foundry wax. If cast as a solid bronze piece the cane head would weigh about two pounds so the wax head was poured hollow. After adding details to the wax by hand, it was taken to our foundry where it was lost wax cast in bronze. Bill cleaned and polished the raw bronze casting to bring up the shiny surface.
The bronze head was fitted so it would screw onto the end of the wooden cane stick. As you can see in the above photo, during the molding and casting process the object being cast will end up slightly smaller than the original carving so we had to take this shrinkage into account when sizing the carving.
The finished cane is well balanced and fits nicely in the hand. It is not only a unique decorative object, but it is a fully functional cane that will no doubt be put to practical use as the years go by.
Friday, November 17, 2023
Founded in 1805, Freeman's Auction House in Philadelphia is America's oldest established auction house. On Thursday November 16, 2023 their Books and Manuscripts auction featured the Edward Gorey collection of Valerie and Matthew Young.
In 1970 Valerie Young purchased a copy of The Bug Book to amuse her children. This purchase began a decades long immersion into all things Edward Gorey. The Young's were soon seriously collecting Mr. Gorey's works, acquiring new works as they were published while also searching out used and rare titles. Matthew Young wrote an essay on their collection for the Friends of the Princeton Library Review, Number 44, Summer 2023. Here is a link to the publication, the essay begins on page 41 - https://library.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/Friends%20Review%20no%2044%20Summer%202023%20low-res%20version.pdf
The 49 lots offered included first edition books, limited edition books, hand colored deluxe edition books, prints, posters, stuffed creatures, and original artwork. Every piece offered sold, with multiple bidders vying for each item. The limited edition Doubtful Guest Doll (#22/50) with its box (shown above) sold for $3780.00 (including buyer's premium). Elephantomas (#VII/X), the very rare portfolio of nine monoprints sold for $5985.00 (including buyer's premium).
Four pieces of original art were included in the auction. English Soup, a black and white drawing created circa 1998 for Edward Gorey's play of the same title sold for $5985.00 (including buyer's premium). Figbash first appeared in The Raging Tide, 1987 and quickly became a favorite character. With his long arms and flexible body, Figbash appeared in countless drawings and books, but very few original drawings of the character are in private collections. This is only the third piece of original artwork featuring Figbash that I am aware of outside of the Gorey Archives.
The other three pieces of original art sold all relate to Edward Gorey's 1976 book, The Broken Spoke. Les Insectes Cyclistes is a visually witty take on cycling, with three long legged insects riding various bicycles. This eye catching piece sold for $11,970.00 (including buyer's premium).
A drawing listed as a sketch for this piece sold for $5985.00. This drawing will be discussed in depth in an upcoming post.
A stunning full color painting titled Contestants in the annual Trans-Novaya Zemlya Bicycle Race sold for $15,120.00. Created for The Broken Spoke, this piece of art adorned the cover of Bromer Booksellers 2001 extensive catalog of the works of Edward Gorey.
It was exciting to see this extensive collection come on the market in an era when many collectors choose to donate their collections to libraries and institutions where, after the initial excitement generated by the donation, the pieces are rarely displayed. The opportunity for collectors to fill in gaps within their collections was a rare experience that keeps joy of collecting alive and thriving.
Images for this post courtesy Freeman's Auction House and the Princeton Library Review.