Thursday, May 11, 2023

Alfresco Entertaining

As the weather improves and the flowers and trees begin to fill out once again, everyone's thoughts begin to focus on outdoor dining and entertaining. Here are a handful of ideas by Edward Gorey on how one can entertain alfresco during the summer months.

An Afternoon Lawn Party - The Skeleton in the above illustration (for Bantam Books Summer Reading 1995 campaign) enjoys a relaxing summer afternoon in a hammock with an improving book. None of the guests of the garden party seem to mind that the skeleton has not dressed for the occasion, or that he has spiked the lemonade with poison.

A Picnic - Sometimes a quiet summer picnic in a secluded glen is just the ticket. The two children featured in Edward Gorey's China Design: Picnic (1974 Graham Gallery Exhibit) are contentedly munching their picnic lunch unaware that they are being observed from afar.

Drinks On The Lawn - Dining in the great outdoors has its pleasures and pitfalls. The well dressed gentleman sharing a meal in the pigsty doesn't seem to mind the odorous environment. Then again, when one has been raised by wealthy farm animals, one gets used to the smell (Hollywood's Most Outrageous Stories, TV Guide December 21 - 25, 1985). The script treatment probably was inspired by a writer's obsession with the sitcom Green Acres.

A Weekend At The Seaside - And finally, the ultimate summer outdoor entertaining - the family get together! In this delightful image from the early 1950's this family of gentlemen are disporting themselves at the seaside on land, sea and air.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

A Melancholy Anniversary

On April 15, 2000 Edward Gorey passed away. We were on our annual visit to New York City at the time and as usual, made several visits to The Gotham Book Mart to pour over the treasures they had to offer.

As it does this year, in 2000 April 15th fell on a Saturday. As usual, when we arrived in Manhattan on Wednesday April 12th, we checked into our hotel and went to The Gotham Book Mart for our initial deep browse. On Thursday evening we attended the New York Antiquarian Book Fair and went back to GBM on Friday to finalize our selections.

During our Friday visit, there was an odd shift in the atmosphere at GBM. Unbeknownst to us, Edward Gorey had suffered a heart attack on Wednesday and his condition was dire. Gina Guy, our Gotham guide to all things Gorey at that time was on edge and kept urging me to pick up whatever I showed an interest in, which was not her usual sales approach. It was only on our return to Minneapolis on Sunday April 16th that we would learn of Mr. Gorey's heart attack and passing.

Images: (top) The Iron Tonic 1969, (upper middle) Cemetery stage set design for Don Giovanni 1980, (lower middle) Unpublished, dated 1984 on reverse, (bottom) The Osbick Bird 1970

Thursday, March 30, 2023

A Visit To New York

We recently returned from a visit to New York City, our first time back in almost five years (skyline view from the airport bus through a  window that needed cleaning). Before it closed in 2007, our annual visits would commence by dropping our bags at the hotel and making a beeline for The Gotham Book Mart. Our visits would also include a visit with Christine von der Linn at Swann Auction Galleries to catch up and discuss all things Edward Gorey. 

While The Gotham Book Mart experience can no longer be savored,  Ms. von der Linn, who now works with Honey & Wax Booksellers in Brooklyn, New York was able to meet us in the City for coffee. Our nosh overlapped with our planned lunch meeting with Edward Gorey Trustee Eric Sherman and Archivist Will Baker. (left to right: Will Baker, Eric Sherman, Christine von der Linn, Irwin Terry)

Lunch was followed by a brief visit to the Edward Gorey Archive to view the ongoing organization of the materials it houses. The Archive has only recently moved into its current space and a tremendous amount of time and effort is being spent to organize and document the materials. While the archive will not be ready to accommodate researchers for quite some time, it is exciting that the treasures it holds are finally being cataloged.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Happy Birthday Edward Gorey!


Remembering Edward Gorey on his 98th birthday! 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Kenyon Review

Published by Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, The Kenyon Review is a literary magazine that first appeared in 1939. Apart from a ten year lapse between 1969 and 1979, the magazine has been in print since its inception. In November 1966, artwork by Edward Gorey graced the cover of the magazine. Mr. Gorey also created illustrations for two stories within this issue.

The interior illustrations are fairly standard Gorey illustration work for the time. They are boldly rendered and eye catching, but look like much of his other book illustration work.

Reviewing the magazine covers Edward Gorey created over the course of his career, The Kenyon Review cover artwork stands out as one of his most successful. The image is finely detailed, yet still grabs the viewer's attention from a distance (to view all the magazine covers, reference my post from October 7, 2022 -

I recently acquired the original artwork for this cover design. The image shows a luxuriously bearded young man (a youthful Edward Gorey himself?) pausing on a stone terrace in his search for literary inspiration. Hovering over his left shoulder is an ethereal muse who, from the look of concentrated anticipation on the young man's face, is providing the longed for spark for his writing. Can the onlookers see the muse, or are they simply passing silent judgement at how woefully inadequate his clothes are for the obviously frigid temperatures? The scene is drawn in deep perspective, which gives the piece a theatrical atmosphere.

An artistic muse was clearly hovering about Edward Gorey himself when he sat down to create this piece. Using only black ink on white paper, this piece is a stellar example of Mr. Gorey's command of pen technique. The stone terrace and marble balustrade appear cold and solid against a forbidding sky that could produce rain or snow at any moment. The muse floats weightlessly while the figures in the background are stern and dark, adding no comfort to the scene. The thick black outline and encroaching branches give the sense that the viewer is observing the scene through a window.

Included with the original artwork were xeroxed copies of two pieces of correspondence relating to the piece. In early 1966 Edward Gorey was in conversation with editor Robie Macauley about the possibility of providing (unspecified) illustrations for the publication. On a postcard sent in March 1966, Mr. Gorey replies to Mr. Maculey about some "very odd" stories that were sent for consideration. He requests that back issues of the magazine be sent to him so he can get a feel for the publication and how they have used story illustrations in the past.

(note: the postcard chosen by Edward Gorey shows The Seventh Plague of Egypt by John Martin, 1800. The plague was a thunderstorm of hail and fire -

The second piece of correspondence is a letter dated 15 September 1966 from Edward Gorey to editor George Lanning. This letter  accompanied the finished artwork. Typed on Mr. Gorey's distinctive typewriter, the missive gives an illuminating glimpse as to how the illustrator worked with editors and presented them publishing choices. This willingness to give options is no doubt a holdover from his days at Anchor Publishing. In the letter Mr. Gorey gives three options for how the cover image can be used. He states that he intended the image to be black and white, but is open to having some color added for the hair of the muse and/or the paper on which the young author is writing. He also provided extra hand-lettered pieces that could be pasted onto the image, just in case he didn't get the prices correct on the art (they were correct).

It is interesting to see how the focus of the drawing changes by dropping colors into the image as specified. On the whole, the first choice of a black and white image remains the most striking as the colors are more distracting than enhancing the image. 

Edward Gorey's relationship with editors was often personal and informal. At the end of the letter, he states that a blank bill is enclosed because he lost track of the payment details for the project. This shows a level of professional trust that seemed to exist between the artist and his clients.

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Wretch Comes To Life


My husband Bill likes to make all kinds of toys and figurines. For the past few years he has been surprising me with an Edward Gorey inspired creation for my birthday or our anniversary, both of which fall at the end of the year. The first figure he made depicts a scene from The Unstrung Harp where Mr. Earbrass is playing croquet in a snowy winter landscape. This figure is a traditional "smoker" (an incense burner) that when lit his breath comes out as smoke through his nose. The second is based on a Christmas card of an Earbrass man balancing piles of wrapped packages. When moved, he shakes and tips and the contents of the boxes rattle.

This year, Bill created a figure based on a piece of art I recently acquired depicting the Evil Communications character called The Wretch (see my previous post).

The Wretch is seen wandering the streets trying to sell his dubious pamphlets. There are piles of discarded pamphlets scattered at this feet, thrown back at him by disgruntled passersby. The Wretch's head can be turned and when bumped or moved, he waves the pamphlets as he flails his arms back and forth. As an added marketing tool for his propaganda, Bill made him so that the sign on his back lights up and changes colors. The short video shows how this unique gift was appropriately wrapped and revealed!