Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Goreyana! Be careful to avoid the bats and headless people when you are out for Tricks or Treats!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Elegant Enigmas in Maine

Elegant Enigmas, the premier exhibition of the work of Edward Gorey continues to travel around the country. The current showing of this fantastic exhibit is at the Portland Public Library in Portland, Maine. On display at the Lewis Gallery through December 29th, the show was brought to Portland through the interest and quick organizational efforts of a few individuals and the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. Due to the financial support of a local bank, and the generosity and flexibility of the Trust, the show had an extremely short gestation period.

To view a video about how the exhibition came together, click here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Fur Designs of Edward Gorey, Part 2

Here is an interesting article which was sent to me by another collector regarding Edward Gorey's Ben Kahn Fur collection. This article/interview was published in January 1979 when the collection was still in the design stages. It shows several of the drawings Mr. Gorey had completed for proposed fur coats and accessories.

Below, I am typing out the article/interview since the copy can be a little hard to read on the scan and it is an interesting view of/by Edward Gorey:


Edward Gorey - successful book illustrator, writer and designer of stage sets for the Broadway production of Dracula - has worked out a business arrangement to design a line of men's furs for Ben Kahn.

On the day of this interview he is going to meet Ernest Graf, President of the firm. Together, they will review Gorey's fanciful sketches and make further plans for the artist's first formal venture into the fashion business.

Edward Gorey walks to his closet silently because he is wearing sneakers as usual with his outfit of the moment or any moment - dungarees and a sweater torn at one elbow. He opens the door.

The closet is stuffed full of fur coats too numerous to  count. He has designed them all over a period of many years. There is no room in the closet for his other possessions. His hands, adorned with enormous African-inspired rings of brass and bronze, reach in and pull out the fur of the day - Russian raccoon dyed blue. He slips into it, wrapping it around his sturdy 6'4" frame. The collar swaddles his neck, hiding the gold loop earring in his left ear. Part of his greying beard disappears into the collar as well.

Edward Gorey has six cats, five strays and an Abyssinian. They are his silent critics. Before leaving for the Ben Kahn showroom, he glances at them and at the accumulation of books and illustrations that occupy various spaces in his one-room apartment.

Incredulity and Shock

Edward Gorey's drawings and text, apart from Dracula stage sets and forthcoming pop-up books, have more than a touch of the macabre. But, like Charles Addams, the dark side of his nature works itself out in his art. In conversation, Edward Gorey is a benign and sociable citizen. The most hair-raising statement he made in the course of the pleasant interview was the following:

"Neiman-Marcus is charging $25,000 for a fisher coat. That is one of the lunatic things. I have a fisher coat. It's old-fashioned now because I've had it fifteen years. It's not quite full length but it's very bulky and it has a great big collar and huge cuffs. It's skin-on-skin which is what I prefer anyway. I hate all this letting-out business. I paid (Gorey's voice draws it out slowly and conspiratorially) seven hundred and fifty dollars for it! In fifteen years, a fisher coat has gone up from $750 to $25,000!"

"About fur design," Gorey says, "let the fur speak for itself. I hate fussy designs, these sort of ditsy things, little bits of leather, epaulets, little bits of brass.... My favorite fur is fisher. The most comfortable fur is mink. I have two, three mink coats as a matter of fact...My favorite fur color is bright yellows."

It was suggested that conservationists might consider it decadent to dye fur bright yellow, or blue, or olive green, to which Gorey replied:

"I have my qualms about it. But if you start thinking that way, if you're wearing leather, if you're eating...No. And (he chuckles) nobody's proved that vegetables don't suffer, actually. Maybe every time you pull a carrot out of the ground it's letting out a scream!"

-Lillian Gordon
New York Guide,   January 15 - 21, 1979

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Fur Designs of Edward Gorey

In 1979 Edward Gorey was asked to create a line of fur coat designs for Ben Kahn Furs in New York City. At that time, Mr. Gorey was a full fledged fur coat wearer, owning around 20 furs which he wore regularly. He would be seen dashing about New York City in chilly weather dressed in blue jeans (Levi's or Lee's), sneakers, and Brooks Bros. shirts, encased in one of his signature fur coats. Mr. Gorey is quoted at the time as saying that he did not own a suit and rarely wore a tie.

Ernest Graff, president and son-in-law of BKF's founder Ben Kahn, was a fan of Mr. Gorey's work. Ben Kahn started BKF in 1913 and Mr. Graff took over as president after Mr. Kahn's death in
1976. In addition to numerous private clients, the furrier had provided luxury furs for celebrities, movies and for the Broadway stage. The cast of Gorey Stories (1978's ill fated Broadway show of Mr. Gorey's works which opened and closed on October 30th) was dressed on stage in furs by BKF. One of BKF's most famous/infamous clients was Eva Peron, who ordered two trunks of furs to be sent to Argentina in 1950. BKF also provided the furs worn by Patti LuPone for her Broadway starring role in Evita!

The 1979 Edward Gorey Ben Kahn Fur show was in the works for a while. Mr. Gorey designed over 30 coats for the line which was introduced in September 1979, premiering at Sardi's in NYC. Of the design process, Mr. Gorey decided to go for the unique and unusual rather than the expected. "I purposely did slightly more bizarre ideas. There was no use doing sketches of conventional coats, though I'd say there are plenty of fairly conventional things in the collection." Mr. Gorey is quoted as saying in the Palm Beach Daily News. One such "unusual" creation was a red-dyed collegiate letter sweater made of nutria.

Original artwork from the show is fairly scarce.  Mr. Gorey sold most (if not all) of the drawings through The Gotham Book Mart in the 1990's. Above is pictured one of the designs with hand written notes by Mr. Gorey. This drawing was sold by Bromer Booksellers in their 2001 Gorey Catalog. I had seen other pieces offered by GBM, but did not acquire any of these designs.

There were two pieces of art created for the exhibition brochure. The cover drawing features a fur clad woman on roller skates with an over sized scarf which has show information written on it. This piece of art is not in my collection and the scan was taken from an on-line auction where the piece was sold several years ago. The second piece of art appeared on page three of the tri-fold brochure and announced Mr. Gorey's participation and his premier as a fur designer (see the image at the top of this listing). This large piece of art is in my collection and might be considered to be a self portrait in a fur coat. These are the only two pieces of promotional artwork for the show that I have been able to find.

In 2010, The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust auctioned Edward Gorey's personal collection of furs. This collection included one coat which he had designed for the Ben Kahn collection - Lot #15, a knee length "Fisher Stroller with blue plaid lining" (see image above left).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Gorey-esque Knight

This past weekend, we visited the newly expanded American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis with visiting family members. The original portion of the museum is housed in a home/castle built in 1908 for Swedish immigrant publisher Swan Turnblad. Mr. Turnblad donated the home to the Institute in 1929, and it has been a center for cultural events since that time.

The home itself is a structure worthy of Edward Gorey's imagination, with turrets, crazy passages and rooms, carvings inside and out, and a second floor conservatory over a porte cochere. At the turn of the grand staircase is the entrance to the elevated conservatory, and this entrance is surrounded by a wall of pictorial stained glass. Comprised of three individual stained glass windows the wall showcases one large horizontal street scene depicting an event in Sweden's history which spans the length of the landing, and two smaller windows on either side of the doorway into the conservatory, each showing a knight.

The knight to the right of the doorway looks as if it has stepped out of an Edward Gorey drawing from the John Bellairs book series. Everything about this guardian reminded us of Gorey's work, from the stance, to the detailed painting, and the colors chosen. What really changes this from a standard stained glass depiction of a knight guarding an entrance is the head of the knight. The faceless armor is all the more striking because of the eyes looking out from the slits in the face mask. These eyes stare out at passerby and follow you wherever you go on the landing! We expected to be stopped and questioned as we passed by.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2012 Edward Gorey House Prints

The Edward Gorey House has released its three new limited edition prints for 2012.

Each year, the Edward Gorey House produces several limited edition prints. The selection for 2012 includes a favorite Gorey story, and two wonderful color images. The prints are available unsigned and in a signed/numbered limited edition. Each limited edition print is "signed" with an embossed facsimile of Edward Gorey's signature. To purchase prints, go the the Edward Gorey House website.

As you will see, this year's selection is firmly rooted in artwork created by Edward Gorey in 1973, a time period when Mr. Gorey was at the height of his artistic powers:

 Little Zooks - image: 4 5/8" x 15 1/2", paper 7" x 17" - Unsigned, Limited edition of 200 numbered, and 26 lettered impressions - Originally published as A Limerick in 1973 (see my post from May 10, 2009), this print shows the entire story of the unfortunate Little Zooks.

Blue Plate Special - image: 7 5/8" x 8 1/8", paper 9 1/2" x 11 1/2" - Unsigned, Limited edition of 200 numbered, and 26 lettered impressions - This unusual image was one of the Fine Art pieces Edward Gorey created for his first Graham Gallery show in 1973 (see my post from June 30, 2009). It appears in the list of works as "#7 China pattern, picnic", but to my knowledge has not been reproduced until now. This is one of several pieces of art included the show which was inspired by china patterns.

Dancing on the Sabbath - image: 6" x 10 1/4", paper 9 1/2" x 11 1/2" - Unsigned, Limited edition of 200 numbered, and 26 lettered impressions - This image was one of the Fine Art pieces Edward Gorey created for his first Graham Gallery show in 1973 (see my post from June 30, 2009). The artwork was reproduced in the gallery booklet for the show. This lovely image looks as though it may have been inspired by The Red Shoes, although it is unclear if the original art was colored by Mr. Gorey, or was originally black and white and colored for reproduction.

2012 Envelope Art Poster - 11 3/4"  x 15 1/8" - This image is only available as an exhibition poster and not as a signed limited edition print. The fantastically detailed cover artwork from Other People's Mail (published in 1973) has been adapted to create this exhibition poster.