Monday, October 2, 2023

Goreyana 15th Anniversary & 1064 Watercolor Paintings

Goreyana's Crystal Anniversary

This week at Goreyana, we celebrate 15 years of all things Edward Gorey. I began the Goreyana blog on October 5, 2008 as a way to honor the extraordinary talent and genius of Edward Gorey. The Gotham Book Mart had closed in 2007 and at that time there were very few venues to learn about Mr. Gorey's body of work. Feeling isolated as a collector, I envisioned this blog as a place to share information, stories, and hopefully to spark conversations between fans and collectors. Today, Gorey's ongoing popularity has led to numerous blogs, articles, Facebook groups, exhibitions, and themed events dedicated to reveling in the works of Edward Gorey. I would like to thank everyone who has read my posts over the years. I truly enjoy all the interactions and enjoyment that my blog has inspired. Thank you! 

Now, let us begin our 16th year with blog post #724!

1064 Watercolor Paintings

Over the years Edward Gorey produced five different limited edition publications that were hand colored: The Lavender Leotard 1973, Dogear Wryde Postcards: Interpretive Series 1979 (1980), The Eclectic Abecedarium 1983, Q.R.V. 1989, and The Dripping Faucet 1989. The Interpretive Series is the most elaborately painted of these titles. I have set 29 in my personal collection.

A recent stroll through eBay turned up three separate sale listings for the deluxe edition of Edward Gorey's Dogear Wryde Postcards: Interpretive Series. Published in 1979 (but not completed until spring 1980), the deluxe edition consists of 50 numbered and 26 lettered sets. Each of the 13 postcards and their accompanying printed envelopes have been extensively hand decorated by Edward Gorey using watercolor paints. This totals out to 1064 individual watercolor paintings. The appearance of multiple sets brought up the question, "How did Edward Gorey paint these cards and are there major differences in the execution of the painting from one set to to the next?".

Photographs of Edward Gorey's home show an environment that is overflowing with books, art, objet d'art, furniture, and cats. The casual viewer might think that the artist lived in world of clutter and chaos, but first impressions can be deceiving. Edward Gorey was actually a very organized person with an obsessive dedication to his work, and his combination of talent and organizational skills were put to the test with the Interpretive Series. The painting of these postcard sets was a task that he set for himself and he rose to the challenge spectacularly.

Comparing images side by side from sets that have been come on the market over the years from booksellers, auction houses and online auction sites, we find that there are no major differences between the sets even though they are all individually hand painted. Beginning with the decorated envelope that houses each set, and making allowances for differences in scans, color correction and photography, the paintings are shockingly similar. I purchased my set at The Gotham Book mart in the spring of 1980 just after they had arrived and remember them all standing together in an open topped box in the small back room at the store. In typical bookstore fashion, the front of each envelope had been labeled lightly in pencil by Andreas Brown stating the number or letter of the set enclosed.

Indolence is the only card in the set that features a capitol letter "I" in a horizontal orientation, so it tends to be featured most often in seller's listings. All the cards of Indolence pictured above are virtually the same, with the colors and shadows of each painted card being obviously hand painted but remarkably consistent. Even the free form shadow under the figure has the same shape and color tone.

In order for Edward Gorey to paint the cards with so little variation from one to the next, he had to have lined up all the cards and painted them production line fashion rather than painting a complete set of 13 cards and moving on to the next set. Concentrating on one image at a time would be the only way to achieve the consistency between the cards. Watercolor can be a tricky medium to master due to the fact that the application of a second color can change what was previously painted.

The cards had printed images that were painted coloring book fashion. Beginning with one color, he would have started with the "I" of every card because it needed to be as smoothly painted as possible. He then would have filled in the creature's body color before beginning the shadows, layering the colors until each was completed. In the two Insouciance cards shown above, you can see how the shadowing on the stomach of the set 42 card started to bleed slightly because the paint being applied was slightly too wet and began reacting with the previously painted body color. This is why the larger areas of infill color would be painted first and the shadows second.

Edward Gorey would not attempt to repeat the elaborate painting style in the three future deluxe hand colored books he would produce. The painting in these publications is still quite colorful but attempts at shading were abandoned. This is why the Dogear Wryde Postcards: Interpretive Series deluxe hand painted postcard sets will always be a jewel in the crown of any collection of the works of Edward Gorey.

Image of Edward Gorey's home from Kevin McDermott's book, Elephant House, Pomegranate 2003.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Broken Spoke Original Artwork

I acquired one of the pieces of original artwork by Edward Gorey that was offered at The Edward Gorey Cocktail Party; or, A Nocturne At The Strand silent auction. 

Valse Degueulasse (Disgusting Waltz) was created in 1976 for Edward Gorey's book The Broken Spoke. This book is a collection of Gorey-created postcard images in disparate styles, each with the common theme of bicycles. 

Edward Gorey rarely sold original artwork from the books he wrote and illustrated, because he wanted the art to be available for subsequent reprints and exhibitions. These works have come to be known as the "A" Collection" publications. Mr. Gorey did make a couple of exceptions and sold art from at least two "A" Collection" books.

Why did Edward Gorey sell the art from The Broken Spoke? In 1979 the artist was approached by The Graham Gallery in New York City to be part of a group exhibition for the holiday season. Mr. Gorey had previously participated in two shows at Graham (1974 & 1975) and for both of these shows he created new works. Rather than create new pieces for this show, Mr. Gorey decided to sell artwork from The Broken Spoke

The postcard format of The Broken Spoke dictated that each image included in the book was a singular piece of art that was not part of a larger story, so selling the individual pieces was easier than breaking up a manuscript-style book. The related subject matter of bicycles lent continuity to the images, which would have appealed to the gallery.

Valse degueulasse is a tongue in cheek advertising postcard image for Edward Gorey's book The Epiplectic Bicycle, which was published in 1969. Created seven years after the book it promotes, Mr. Gorey pays homage to his earlier work.  

The Epiplectic Bicycle has long been my favorite book by Edward Gorey. Knowing that the art from this book will remain in the archives of the Edward Gorey Trust, Valse deueulasse became something of an obsession with me once it was announced for inclusion in the silent auction.

In The Broken Spoke, this advertising postcard has been titled (Advertisement) on the facing page.

Individual pieces of art from The Broken Spoke are always entertaining and beautifully executed. The styles vary wildly from piece to piece, showing Edward Gorey's stylistic virtuosity and his command of a variety of artistic techniques.

The sparse composition of Valse degueulasse is a masterclass in composition and restraint.The background is left a pristine white, giving the drawing a lighter than air sensation, enhancing the movement of the figures caught in their unlikely dance. The viewer's eye cannot help but move about the drawing, pausing but briefly at the hand lettered title and speech bubbles before sliding down the alligator's tail, up his back and then down again to land on the seat of the bicycle. Like a roller coaster ride set to music the eye is constantly kept in perpetual motion moving in a circular fashion around the image.

Like most drawings for his A Collection publications, Edward Gorey dated this piece of art on the back of the drawing in the lower right corner. The two dates 31.iii.76 - 31.iii.76 (March 31, 1976 - March 31, 1976) show that the drawing was completed in one day.

The fineness of the line in this drawing is exemplary. The control needed to place the tiniest of dots for the slightly off center pupil in the alligators eye gives the beast expression. The dot is more pronounced in scans and printed versions of the drawing itself. Viewing the drawing in person, the dot is almost invisible.  

This was the final piece of interior postcard art from The Broken Spoke that remained in the Gorey archives, all the others having sold either through Graham Gallery or The Gotham Book Mart. The one remaining original piece from Broken Spoke in the archive is the sumptuous full color cover painting. This spectacular painting has been included in several museum shows of Edward Gorey's works.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Original Art At Auction, Part 2


As mentioned in the previous post, there were three more pieces of original artwork offered at The Edward Gorey Cocktail Party; or, A Nocturne At The Strand fundraiser's silent auction on August 9th.

Gentleman on Ottoman represents the earliest drawing offered at the auction. A beautifully executed finished pen and ink drawing, this piece was created in the very early 1950's, around the time of Edward Gorey's first published work, The Unstrung Harp. Not intended for a specific project, this piece nonetheless shows the delicate dexterity of Mr. Gorey's line work and attention to detail. Holding a drink in his left hand, the gentleman is intently studying a piece of paper on the floor. While Edward Gorey's figures can be stiffly posed, this gentleman elegantly displays the intensity of his concentration through his expressive body language. Even the way he holds the cocktail suggests a pause of unexpected inquiry as if the paper suddenly appeared at his feet. This piece sold for $4000.00.

Jumping ahead about 25 years, Edward Gorey created Valse degueulasse (repugnant waltz) in 1976 for his book The Broken Spoke. This image makes a tongue-in-cheek reference to an earlier work by Mr. Gorey, The Epiplectic Bicycle (1969) in which both the alligator and bicycle were featured characters. This drawing is an exceptional example of Edward Gorey's mastery of delicate line work and the use of blank space within a drawing. This piece sold for $4500.00.

Four Men in Fur Coats was created in 1985 for a book project that was not completed. The gentlemen pictured are reminiscent of the similarly adorned characters from Edward Gorey's 1982 book The Water Flowers. The elaborate winter garments worn by the men are beautifully rendered in this pen & ink drawing. As mentioned in a previous post, this drawing was created at a time when Edward Gorey was ceasing to wear fur coats himself, but could still indulge in over the top (and politically incorrect) period fashion in his art. This piece sold for $7250.00.

The photo of the silent auction display case courtesy Russell Lehrer. Images of original art courtesy The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Original Art At Auction, Part 1

Much anticipated, The Edward Gorey Cocktail Party; or, A Nocturne At The Strand fundraiser hosted by the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust on August 9th was a great success. The items sold at the silent auction to help raise funds for the Trust's mission are now in the collections of the winning bidders. 

In addition to the posters, prints, and personal jewelry items, seven original drawings were included in the auction, and special recognition should be given to Trust archivist Will Baker for curating a spectacular collection of pieces for the event's silent auction. The original art included works that represented the breadth of Edward Gorey's oeuvre from the beginning of his career through the mid 1990's.

With loose pen strokes, Cat on a mantle. shows Mr. Gorey's skill at capturing the essence of an image swiftly and with style. Rendered on the back of a sheet of his printed note paper, this portrait of a cat was obviously quickly executed yet is precise and no lines are extraneous. This drawing sold for $3600.00.

A preliminary artwork rather than a sketch, Mysteries offers insights into how Edward Gorey organized his ideas when designing a poster and/or book cover (this project does not appear to have been fully realized). Even though the style appears loose, this image was carefully and deliberately planned out. Mr. Gorey's color preliminary drawings are usually executed as expressive watercolor paintings even when the final piece would rely heavily on finely drawn pen and ink with color accenting. The penciled grid, while not unheard of, was employed infrequently by the artist. The grid would provide accurate measurements to aid Mr. Gorey in recreating the image in the final work. The purple infill around the vignettes lends an atmospheric sense of drama to the art. This piece sold for $4000.00.

Drat! was a poster design created in 1997 for a theatrical evening of stories by Edward Gorey at the Cape Rep Theatre. The image is executed with an economy of line, deft craftsmanship. and humor. The letters appear one inside the other, tunnel fashion with the letter D acting as the mouth of the tunnel. An expired bug rests atop of the D. The dramatic simplicity of the design compels the viewer to exclaim "Drat!" out loud. This piece sold for $1700.00.

Another piece that uses lettering as image in a totally different style is Q.R.V. 1-12. This piece was drawn in 1985 and is dated on the back, indicating that it was intended to be part of an A Collection work.  Q.R.V. became a major theme for Edward Gorey through the years as the enigmatic letters appeared with increasing frequency in his writings, illustrations and stage designs. The "1 - 12" notation on the scroll acts as a subtitle, indicating that this was most likely intended as the cover image for the (unfinished) work. The dimensions and crop marks suggest that this was to be a postcard project, a favorite format of Mr. Gorey's. This piece sold for $2650.00.

The three other pieces of original art from the auction will be discussed in a future post. 

The photo of the silent auction display case courtesy Russell Lehrer. Images of original art courtesy The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.


Saturday, August 12, 2023

Gorey Fundraising Event Auction News

On Wednesday August 9th, The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust hosted a cocktail party fundraiser at the Strand Bookstore in New York City. The event was attended by over 100 Goreyphiles who imbibed themed cocktails and snacked on hors d'oeuvres while viewing displays of rare Gorey material from collector Russell Lehrer's extensive Edward Gorey collection. EGCT Trustee Eric Sherman welcomed the assembled party goers and talked about the focus of the Trust and the charitable works the Trust is involved with. Mr. Lehrer gave a short talk and was available throughout evening to share insights into his collection.

A much anticipated feature of the event was the silent auction. The twenty items auctioned included signed posters, prints, original artwork and a selection of Edward Gorey's personal jewelry items. Live bidding was available to all those in attendance and remote bidders could also participate (preregistration with a fee was required).

With a final bid of $4100.00, Mr. Gorey's unusual brass finger ring was much sought after.

The top item at the auction was a piece of original artwork showing four men in fur coats with top hats in front of river with ice floes in the background. This exceptional piece is dated 4.x.85-5.x.85 (October 4-5, 1985) on the reverse and was intended for a book that was never completed. This beautifully rendered pen and ink drawing was created at a time when Edward Gorey was ceasing to wear fur coats himself, but could still indulge in over the top fashion in his art. This exceptional piece sold for $7250.00

The event concluded by raising over $40,000.00 for the Trust. 

(Photos from the event courtesy Russell Lehrer. Photos of auction items courtesy The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust)

Sunday, July 30, 2023

New Limited Edition Edward Gorey Print

The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust is throwing a cocktail party fundraiser on Wednesday August 9th at the Strand Bookstore in New York City. Tickets to this special evening are still available HERE.

A unique feature of the event is a silent auction featuring posters, limited edition prints, personal items of Edward Gorey, and original artwork. For those who cannot attend the event in person, there is an option to bid online ($30.00 registration fee).

The Edward Gorey Trust has created Ancient Survivals, a new limited edition print especially for this event. Registered auction bidders may purchase the print on line at this time. To register to bid online go HERE.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Summer at th Edward Gorey House


The Edward Gorey House is in full summer mode. Have you planned your pilgrimage visit yet?

The Edward Gorey House is the only museum dedicated solely to the works of Edward Gorey. Housed in Mr. Gorey's rambling home in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, the museum mounts a unique themed exhibition annually, mixing original artworks, books, and ephemera along with personal items. 

The 2023 exhibition, Dressed To Kill, Edward Gorey and the Social Fabric, shines a runway spotlight on the clothing and costume designs created by Edward Gorey for his books, illustrations, and stage productions.

If you are unable to visit The Edward Gorey House in person, you can still show your support with an annual House membership. Members are rewarded with several benefits including free admissions and discounts at the gift shop, both in person and online. 

A desirable membership premium at the $100.00 Donor level (and above) is a highly collectible exhibition booklet created by museum curator Gregory Hischak. Begun in 2020, each annual booklet is fully illustrated and features new essays by Mr. Hischak that give in-depth context to the current exhibition. Produced in very small print runs, these booklets are unique collector's items that are highly sought after.

To donate to the House or subscribe with a membership, to HERE.