Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Amphigorey Limited Edition Cat Artwork Continued

Amphigorey, Edward Gorey's first compilation book, was published in 1972 by G. Putnam's Sons, New York. The book was originally published in a hard cover binding with a matching illustrated dust wrapper. A special signed/numbered/slipcased edition of Amphigorey was also produced at that time in an edition of 50 copies. Each of these special copies was accompanied by a piece of original artwork featuring a cat. Each drawing was numbered within the artwork to match the book it went with.  (See my posting from April 15, 2009 for more information about this edition of Amphigorey)

I recently learned of two additional numbered drawings - #51 & #52. I acquired drawing #51 and have seen #52. Drawing #51 shows a cat sitting on top of a hill (or flat topped rock) holding a small evergreen branch with a treetop star above its head. The number of the drawing appears within the star. This image has been issued as a Christmas card with the number removed and the colors changed to red & green.

Drawing #52 shows a levitating cat from behind wearing striped leg warmers. This cat is holding a trumpet and the number is written on the floating scarf which appears to have slipped from the cat during its heavenly ascent. (This piece of artwork is not in my collection)

The story associated with these two drawings is that Edward Gorey was originally going to do 100 limited edition copies of Amphigorey and that he decided to halt the limitation at 50, but there are a couple of problems with this story...

I have seen three original pieces of artwork from Amphigorey in person, and each of these have been drawn on vertically orientated pieces of paper. The placement of the artwork is toward the upper part of the paper with the lower third completely blank. Drawing #51 is executed on the same size piece of paper, but the paper is horizontally orientated and the artwork is centered (see photo below).  I have not seen #52 outside of its frame, but the framing matches #51, so I assume it is the same.

The greater mystery appears on the back of the artwork. On the reverse side in Mr. Gorey's hand, Cat #51 is dated December 7, 1980 at the lower right hand corner. This date is eight years after he created Amphigorey drawings #1 - #50. This date creates more questions than it answers.

When creating drawings for publication as an "A Collection" book, Edward Gorey would place a date on the back of each drawing he was creating for the proposed volume. This date would indicate when he actually drew/painted the piece of art. A single date meant that he finished the art in one day, a double date indicates which days he began and completed the piece. The original Amphigorey cat drawings are not dated because they were pieces of artwork and were not intended for publication even though they would appear as Categor y, published by Gotham Book Mart in 1974.

The most plausible explanation for the existence of these two drawings is that Mr. Gorey was approached by someone (most likely Gotham Book Mart) to continue the numbered cat drawings starting at #51 and continuing to #100 as a sequel to Categor y. This would account for the number within the artwork and the date on the back of the drawing. The fact that only two additional drawings exist shows that the idea did not get very far before Mr. Gorey lost interest and decided to stop.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Worsted Monster by Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey would often preview new works in magazines and later publish them as books. There are a number of pieces that appeared in periodicals which have never (as yet) appeared outside the original magazine publication. One such piece is The Worsted Monster.

The Worsted Monster is a toy theater, complete with three act libretto, that appeared in the June 1975 issue of National Lampoon as part of their Rainy Day Sunday Funbook Issue. The sets and participants are printed on stiff card stock within the magazine, but because they are printed on both sides of each page, someone would have had to buy two copies of the magazine to actually cut out and perform the play.

Mr. Gorey pulled out many of his pseudonyms for this piece. It was written by Eduard Blutig, translated by Mrs. Regera Dowdy and shows the original decor and costumes by O. Mude.  The play itself is a delight to read and is full of Mr. Gorey's innovative wit.

Each of the three acts has a full color backdrop, a cast of costumed characters, various set furnishings, and props which can be cut out and placed inside the proscenium arch on the first page. There are two interior backdrops (Act 1 & Act 3) and one exterior - The Fearful Wood (shown above) which is used for the Prologue and for Act 2 (note the calling card in the lower right hand corner that Mr. Gorey included in all his primary works). Each of the backdrops are wonderfully detailed.

The Worsted Monster remains one of Edward Gorey's hidden masterpieces from the most prolific time of his career. Perhaps one day it will be published so it can finally take its place amongst his other primary works.

Friday, August 9, 2013

National Lampoon Edward Gorey Cover

The June 1975 edition of National Lampoon magazine features a cover by Edward Gorey. The artwork is beautifully rendered in full color. The theme of the issue is Rainy Day Sunday Funbook Issue. The drawing is titled "A dozen stupid things to do on a wet Sunday afternoon (key within)".

The key appears on page 5 and lists:

1. Drop grapes from an upstairs window.
2. Collect all the toothpicks in the house into a pile and pour glue over it.
3. Hang yourself from a chandelier.
4. Set fire to your toothbrush.
5. Catch raindrops in your nose.
6. Climb the curtains.
7. Mutilate the ornamental shrubbery.
8. Stare at the woodwork.
9. Recite and identify bits of apropos poetry.
10. Poke the cat.
11. Sit in the birdbath.
12. Try to figure out what the dozen stupid things to do on a wet Sunday afternoon are.

This issue also contains The Worsted Monster (next post).