Sunday, December 29, 2019

Auction News - The Magazine Pieces

Of the eight lots of original artwork by Edward Gorey auctioned at Swann Auction Galleries in New York City on December 10, 2019, three were created for use in periodicals. The largest piece (image size 12.25" x 9.25") was commissioned as a cover for the January/February 1988 issue of Print Magazine. This fantastic watercolor and pen & ink painting is a fantasy image that leaves the viewer with more questions than it answers. The entire piece can be summed up in one word, "Why?". Why are there floating snakes of various colors? Why are there orange mustaches everywhere? Why is there a gramophone at the seaside? Then again, why not? Mr. Gorey left virtually no room for the title of the magazine to be superimposed on the cover, but the art director managed to squeeze it into the upper right hand corner. This glorious painting sold for $16,250.00 (including buyer's premium).

From the 1970's through the 1990's, Edward Gorey created over 25 spot illustrations for TV Guide Magazine, and all of the pieces have three things in common - they are large, colorful, and imaginative. The weekly magazine could be found next to armchairs in living rooms and lounges across the nation, keeping everyone informed of the upcoming broadcast programming. The pages of program listings were made of cheap newsprint, but a color section had television related articles on all subjects, and Mr. Gorey's commissions reflect the eclectic nature of the articles.

For this piece on the trend of recording a video will that would be presented to the grieving survivors, Edward Gorey shows the expectant mourners viewing a television propped on the deceased's final conveyance. It is all too obvious by the preferred placement of the cat that the people will come away disappointed in the testamentary distributions of the deceased. This colors for this piece are muted greens and greys, but the art director must have wanted more "pop" on the page and tweaked the colors towards yellow, downplaying the somber tones of the original. All of Mr. Gorey's pieces for TV Guide are drawn large and reduced for the magazine - this piece measures 7.5" x 5.25", which is almost the size of the magazine itself. This fantastic piece sold for $8125.00 (including buyer's premium).

The third magazine illustration offered was created for the July 19, 1983 issue of Sports Illustrated Magazine for a feature on the history of baseball. This unlikely subject - one cannot imagine an art director saying, "I know, let's commission the art from Edward Gorey! He is a great sports illustrator." - is presented simply, with a strong, compact visual flare. As often happens once the artwork lands in the hands of the art director, the image was severely cropped, tightening the composition but ultimately damaging the finesse of the image. This piece realized $7000.00 (including buyer's premium).

Monday, December 23, 2019

Happy Holidays!

from Goreyana

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Auction News - The Ballet Pieces

The December 10, 2019 Illustration Art Auction at Swann Galleries in New York City offered a scintillating selection of original works by Edward Gorey in several themes. Going to the ballet was a lifelong obsession for Edward Gorey and two of the lots offered were ballet themed works.

Ballet in a Nutshell (Lot 42) was the first Gorey piece offered in the auction lineup. Originally published in Dance Magazine in January 1974, this large (8" x 10" image), beautifully detailed pen & ink drawing distills Edward Gorey's innumerable theater going experiences into a single image. The piece sold for $6250.00 (including buyer's premium), the only piece in the group to sell slightly below its pre-auction estimate.

The top half of the nutshell shows three performers dancing on stage, while the lower half shows the theater lounge at intermission. Mr. Gorey was a familiar figure in the lobby lounge, holding court and exchanging bon mots with other attendees. The sometimes complimentary, but more often amusingly bitchy comments rise like poison cigarette smoke from the participants - the man on the far right is holding a cigarette. It could be assumed that the third gentleman from the right is Mr. Gorey himself, the silhouette shows a man in a bulky (fur?) coat.

The fashion styles of the day are evident, even is silhouette. Pant legs are flared. A person (man, woman?) on the left has a neck scarf, over the shoulder bag, leggins, and chunky heeled shoes. The woman in conversation with the Gorey figure has a short, mod skirt and earrings. the central group is an older crowd with bow ties, more traditional dresses and hair ribbons. This drawing clearly represents the time period in which it was created.

This piece is a technical tour de force in pen & ink. Light and shadow are expertly conveyed from the onstage lighting of the performers to the masterful use of white space in the brightly lit theater lobby. The infill of small, vertical lines around the "nut" give a sense of the endless carpet in the theater lobby. This piece is a sibling to Edward Gorey's 1973 volume The Lavender Leotard, or Going A Lot to the New York City Ballet (, which presents much the same subject in book form.
The next lot (Lot 75) included two costume sketches from a 1975 production of Swan Lake, presented by the Andre Eglevsky Company at the Rockland Community College, Suffern, New York. This lot sold for $10,000.00 (with buyers premium), solidly within the estimate. Both of these designs have amusing notations that present intimate windows into Edward Gorey's love of ballet. The notes on the first piece begin with the exclamation, "Whee!". The costumes are clearly presented, with Sigfried's costume is minutely detailed as to types of fabric and decoration.
The owl costume on the second page is similarly detailed and beautifully illustrated. Edward Gorey clearly envisioned how a performer would move in the costume, indicating where and how the large feathered cape was to attach to the dancer's body. Special details, such as "dark brown unshiny boots with cuffs" and "hands in white gloves with finger ends stained black" provide not only costume details, but give the performer a glimpse into the character, as envisioned by Mr. Gorey.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Auction News

Christmas came early for several lucky bidders at Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art Auction on Tuesday December 10. Eight pieces of original artwork by Edward Gorey were offered for sale, with only one of the pieces falling slightly below the presale estimates, while the rest sold at or above the estimates. One piece, the 1988 full color cover painting created for Print Magazine sold for $16,250.00 (including buyer's premium) far exceeding the presale estimate of $7000 - $10,000. A seasonally appropriate highlight of the auction was the full color Christmas card design (shown above), which sold for $7000.00.

All but one of the pieces in this sale were offered by The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust, being culled from the Edward Gorey archives and were sold to benefit the charitable donations made to animal causes by the Trust. The winning bidders are now the first private owners of the works, essentially purchasing the pieces from Edward Gorey himself. Purchasing directly from Mr. Gorey (either from the artist himself or through Gotham Book Mart) has not been possible since the time of his death in early 2000. For the past nineteen years, original art has only been available on the secondary market and was limited to pieces sold before February 2000.

Goreyana will take a look at some of the other pieces from this auction in in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Holiday Auction News

The original artwork for this wonderful Christmas Card design by Edward Gorey will be auctioned at Swann Galleries in NYC next week along with seven other Gorey originals.  Go HERE  to see these and the other original pieces being offered on December 10.