Thursday, August 26, 2021

Response Postcard Original Art


Edward Gorey received a fair amount of mail from admirers of his works looking for autographs and asking him with questions in the hopes of getting a personal reply by return post. Mr. Gorey felt an obligation to answer his fan mail but he really didn't have the time or interest to respond with a personal reply to every request. His solution to this mounting challenge was to create a postcard that he could quickly hand sign and mail back. 

The original artwork for this exceptional postcard was recently offered at Swann Auction Galleries in New York City and I was able to add this stunning piece of original artwork to my collection. Drawn on an 11 1/2" x 7 1/4" piece of paper, the image is 6 1/4" x 4 1/4" with crop marks in the margins. 

When creating artwork for a piece that would be reproduced with a full bleed ( the image would extend to the edge of the printed piece with no white margins), Edward Gorey would draw the image slightly larger than the final size and indicate how it was to be cropped. In this instance, the image was drawn 4% larger than the final postcard size of 4" x 6". The mastery and precision of Mr. Gorey's pen strokes is evident at the edges of the drawing. Without inking a border line to contain the image, each pen stroke stops at the precise edge of the drawing field. Since the image was intended to be trimmed, Mr. Gorey could have made the edge of the artwork ragged.

Edward Gorey dated the drawing in typical fashion, with a start and completion date. He must have decided to date the drawing upon finishing it because he doesn't seem to remember the exact day he started this piece of artwork. Dated "? ix 79 . 1 x 79", it is clear that he completed the drawing on October 1, 1979, and had been working on it in September of that year, but did not make a note of the day he began the piece.

I have a postcard in my collection that was signed, addressed and sent by Edward Gorey to a fan in April 1, 1999. Hope the recipient didn't think it was an April Fool's Day joke!!



Monday, August 16, 2021

Mystery! Parody

 The idea for this post came from an online chat group.

The PBS Masterpiece Theater program Mystery! began in 1980 and continued into the 2000's before changing into a new format. By the late 80's the program and its unique introductions became a firmly established cultural fixture. At the same time Edward Gorey also became something of a household name due in large part to the the animated sequence he created with Derek Lamb that opened each episode. After the animated sequence, a host would introduce the program in a set designed to look like an interior by Mr. Gorey. Host Vincent Price often begin his introductions by welcoming viewers to "Gorey Mansion". It can come as no surprise that the opening of the show was parodied on many television programs in the '80's & '90's.

One of the more unexpected programs to do a parody of Mystery! was Sesame Street, which produced an ongoing series of segments spoofing the show and its format. The segments were entitled Mysterious Theater! and each began with a title card spoofing the Gorey/Lamb animation. lists five segments of Mysterious Theater!, the first appearing in Season 20 (1989). 

All of the Mysterious Theater! segments featured were hosted by a Muppet named Vincent Twice, who always said his entire name twice. The segments also only spoofed the Sherlock Holmes stories with a clueless detective named Sherlock Hemlock and his dog Watson. Of course, Watson solves every mystery.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Stuffed Creatures Part 4: Great Gotham Sale

(To reference previous posts focusing on Edward Gorey's three dimensional creatures and beanbag animals, type "stuffed creatures" into the search engine.)

On June 30, 2021, Ashcroft and Moore Auctions hosted Gotham Gorey Squared, their second auction of items from The Gotham Book Mart's (GBM) remaining inventory. GBM closed in 2007 and the contents of the store went into hiding until recently coming to light. Ashcroft and Moore is one of several auction houses that has offered items from GBM's final inventory. 

Of special interest to collectors in this sale was a stunning collection of the various stuffed creatures that were completely hand made by Edward Gorey. These creatures were usually used as gifts to friends, but they would also occasionally be sold at his theatrical productions or through GBM.  Most of the creatures in this sale appear in quantity, but it should be remembered that each of these objects was hand made by Mr. Gorey himself and they are actually quite rare. Until this auction, these items have only rarely appeared on the secondary market.

Edward Gorey spent a lot of  time watching television and rather than just sit and stare at the screen, he multi-tasked and kept busy hand sewing these (and other) creatures while viewing programs. Mr. Gorey created stuffed Frogs in two basic styles - with splayed back legs, long front legs, and rounded toes (approximately 9.5" x 9.5"); and more streamlined version with short front legs and pointed toes (approximately 9" x 6"). There was no standard fabric color preference on the frogs, and most have small button eyes. 

This sale included one Figbash doll. Edward Gorey probably created more Figbash dolls than any other of his stuffed creatures, and they appear in a rainbow of fabric colors and patterns. While it was rare for Gotham to offer the other creatures for sale, Figbash dolls were usually available for purchase. According to the Gorey-made tags that Gotham included with these dolls, Figbash is presented "life sized" and is 6.5" x 19". With his long arms and short body, Figbash is supple and can be playfully draped in an infinite number of positions.

Salamanders are one of the more complex creatures Edward Gorey designed. Mr. Gorey stuffed his creatures with Uncle Ben's Rice - he claimed that this brand had the best pouring spout - and he used a chopstick to shove the rice into the nooks and crannies such as the salamander's curving tail. The salamanders are approximately 9" x 8" and tend to have less robustly colored fabrics. They tend to be well stuffed and are not as flexible as the frogs, which can be flopped and easily positioned into humorous attitudes. One of the salamanders has been created with a patriotic fabric that Mr. Gorey seemed to have a fondness for. He used this American flag motif often with other animals (but which were not part of this sale).

There was only one Alligator offered in this sale. At 10.5" x 5", it is one of the larger creatures created by Edward Gorey. Very few alligators are known.

The final set of creatures in this sale is one of the most perplexing. They are approximately 8" x 5" and appear in a variety of fabrics. Two of the pieces sold have eyes, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Over the years, this creature has been described both as The Doubtful Guest and as a Penguin, with no definitive answer as to what it actually is meant to be. I recall Andreas Brown calling them penguins on occasion and the answer can presumably be found in Lot #427. This creature, in black fabric, is accompanied by a hand written note by Edward Gorey that is titled "Oiseau funebre (or what you get when you ask for a penguin). The title translates into "Funeral Bird", and penguins are one of the few animals that are known to mourn and bury their dead when a chick or mate dies, often gathering in groups.

Who asked for a penguin? Was this the first of its kind to be created? Unfortunately, we may never know for sure, but since this was part of the GBM inventory and presumably came direct from Edward Gorey himself, it can be assumed that Mr. Brown may have been the original recipient of this rare bird and that this flock is indeed intended to be penguins. To cover all the bases, one collector I know has started referring to them as Penguin Guests!



Monday, July 12, 2021

All Strange Away Original Art


The June 24th Illustration Art Auction at Swann Galleries in NYC offered a spectacular selection of original illustration artwork by Edward Gorey. Perhaps the most unusual offering was the suite of art created for the book All Strange Away by Samuel Beckett.

All Strange Away (ASA) has been published many times over the years, with the first translation in English printed in 1964. In 1976 Andreas Brown chose to publish the story under his Gotham Book Mart imprint and commissioned Edward Gorey to illustrate the volume. Mr. Gorey is on record as stating that he did not collaborate with authors whose work he illustrated and ASA is an object lesson in how to publish a beautifully produced book with virtually no collaboration between any of the parties involved. 

Orchestrated by Mr. Brown, the text was pre-existing, so permission to publish the story was acquired through Mr. Beckett's literary agent. Mr. Gorey was sent the text and created 16 images which were sent directly to Ronald Gordon at The Oliphant Press where the book was being created. Mr. Gorey did not specify how or in what order the images were to be used. Mr. Gordon read the text, looked at the artwork, and decided what the book would look like and how the illustrations would appear in the volume without input from any of the other parties. This creative detachment was eminently appropriate to the author, illustrator, and subject matter of the book.

Edward Gorey created a suite of 16 illustrations for ASA that are neither drawings nor collage but bear the hallmarks of both. Obtaining an old book with engraved illustrations, Mr. Gorey searched for images, zeroing in and cutting out 1.25" squares from the pages of the book. He then modified each image by hand, adding pen & ink shading and line work to enhance or change each postage stamp sized picture. The images were then carefully pasted down on three boards and sent to the publisher. Apart from indicating the top on each page, there were no notations to guide Mr. Gordon as to which illustration was intended for any specific part of the story. The final positioning of the images on the pages resembles an illustrated manuscript. For the cover of the book, a cropped portion of one of the images (shown above) was enlarged and printed in negative, transforming the image to look like a block print.

Considering the way these images were created, one could take the position that there was a second (unknown) illustrator who unwittingly collaborated on the illustrations for the book, but once again had no direct contact with anyone else involved. In the 1990's Edward Gorey embraced the use of clip art images in a series of postcards and broadsides using collage techniques but these later pieces did not include image modification.

Like many other illustrators, over the course of his career Edward Gorey freely employed paste-up techniques to "fix" his drawings. It was Mr. Gorey's common practice to glue pieces of paper onto the surface of his artwork so he could modify a drawing or change a title without redrawing the entire image. Unfortunately, when making these revisions Mr. Gorey often used a very unstable glue that quickly became brittle, turned brown, and let go of the pasted correction. He used this glue was used to affix the ASA images to the backing boards. When the art arrived at Swann only two squares remained affixed in their original positions. 

To photograph the art for auction, illustration specialist Christine Von Der Linn had to match the imprint of the discolored glue on the boards with the reverse image on the art pieces to indicate their proper positions and orientation. Permanently remounting the art to the boards has been left to the discretion of the collector who purchased this suite of artwork.

The original artwork discussed in the post is not in my personal collection. The limited edition book pictured was sold previously at Swann. All images have been provided by Christine Von Der Linn and Swann Galleries and are used with permission.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Auction News: Ashcroft and Moore


With two major auctions of Edward Gorey material following back to back, collectors have been all abuzz for the past two weeks. The Swann Auction on June 24th featured original artwork, while the June 30th Gotham Gorey Squared auction at Ashcroft and Moore Auctioneers was the followup auction to the April 1st sale of the late great Gotham Book Mart's remaining inventory. Live bidding on the 432 lots took almost eleven hours to complete, with spirited bidding on most pieces and only a few items failing to sell.

This sale also included items from the estate of Consuelo Joerns, a longtime personal friend of Edward Gorey's. Ms. Jorens and Mr. Gorey were frequent correspondents and the auction had eighteen lots of personal postcards and letters spanning decades between the two friends.

The auction began as a trip down memory lane for visitors to the famous bookstore. Photographs, prints, and paintings that once adorned the walls were sold before the much sought after Gorey selections came up. Books, original artwork, buttons, hand made stuffed animals, personal items, and a large selection of stage used props and set pieces are all finding their way into collections around the world.

To view all the pieces sold and what the final hammer price was (minus the additional buyer's premiums), visit the auctioneers website HERE.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Auction News - Swann Auctions

The Swann Auction Galleries June 24 Illustration Art Sale showcased an impressive array of original artworks by Edward Gorey. Six lots were offered with five resulting in sales (lot 185 Amphigorey: A Musicale. Three proscenium designs failed to meet its reserve). Four of the lots originated from The Oliphant Press printer's archives, while the remaining two lots came from a private collector. 

The lineup began as all art does, with a collection of concept sketches outlining The Disrespectful Summons (1971). The three pages of notes and loose drawings laid out the book visually by Mr. Gorey as he began to organize his thoughts. The lot exceeded its pre-sale estimate of $3000 - $4000, ending with a hammer price of $5000.00 (including buyer's premium).

Subsequent lots included finished artwork from two books, theatrical set designs and a Christmas themed image.  Lot 99 An Exchange of Gifts (1982) was a captivatingly charming image that did very well with a final hammer price of $10,000.00 (including buyer's premium). Framed like a brooch by strands of holly, the small girl and her dog are unwrapping gifts to one another. The dog received a doll in the likeness of the girl and the girl has a doll shaped like the dog. 

We will take a closer look at the three remaining lots that sold in future posts. Each of these three represent important pieces from Edward Gorey's artistic career.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

New Johnny Dixon Novels Coming


For followers of the John Belliars series of mystery books for young readers, Author Brad Stickland posted this message on the John Belliars Facebook page:

"Know all ye who enjoy mysteries: I have been asked to write some new Johnny Dixon novels. I'm about 40% through a first draft of the first novel, provisionally titled THE MAN WHO SUMMONED SHADOWS. I think I'm getting comfortable in good old Duston Heights once more. I'll do my best, my friends, so wish me luck.

(The artwork is by me, trying to imitate a certain great illustrator's traditional crosshatching)"

Brad Strickland is of course referring to Edward Gorey whose artwork graced 22 books in the Bellairs/Strickland series. Mr. Stickland was chosen to continue the popular book series after John Belliars passing.


Friday, May 28, 2021

A British Review


Born To Be Posthumous, Mark Dery's seminal biography of Edward Gorey caused a stir when it was published in 2018, so it is somewhat surprising that The London Review of Books has taken three years to publish a review. You can read the review HERE.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Marvin Kaye


Mystery author and editor Marvin Kaye died on May 13, 2021 at the age of 83. Edward Gorey created wraparound dust jacket cover designs for eight of the numerous anthologies Kaye produced. 


Monday, May 10, 2021

The Gorey Art Market


Edward Gorey expert appraiser Christine von der Linn offers insights into collecting original artwork by Edward Gorey in this essay for Swann Galleries. Read the essay HERE

Swann's Illustration Art sale in June will include the fantastic postcard image shown above.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

QRV Button Magnets


Ashcroft and Moore's The Great Gotham Gorey Collection auction was held on April 1, 2021 and offered many interesting items. Books, posters, t-shirts, and detritus from the long closed bookstore were embraced with spirited bidding. One of the most interesting lots was a collection of 45 Q.R.V. themed pinback style button magnets (one extra non-matching piece included in the lot was a Boston City Opera magnet). Researching these buttons, it became obvious that Edward Gorey created these himself and that the background color for each was hand painted by Mr. Gorey.

The lot consisted of multiple copies of 12 different Q.R.V. designs mounted to metal pinbacks. Three of the designs are represented with examples in gold, bronze, or silver. Five designs appear with gold and silver while the remaining four designs had only one background color present. Were these tests for a promotional item or perhaps a hand made object like the Figbash dolls that Mr. Gorey intended to include with the deluxe edition of the book? The answer can be found by going back 20 years to the 2001 catalog of rare and unusual Edward Gorey items sold by Bromer Booksellers.

Anne Bromer is a Boston based bookseller who was also a long time purveyor, promoter, publisher and friend of Edward Gorey. Bromer published two miniature books by Edward Gorey - The Eclectic Abecedarium in 1983 and Q.R.V. in 1989. While visiting Mr. Gorey at his home, Ms. Bromer acquired a set of ten handmade refrigerator magnets, each bearing the initials Q.R.V., a small child, and often a banner. Mr. Gorey informed Ms. Bromer that he made them so he could visualize different designs and colors for the cover of the miniature book. Mr. Gorey told her at the time that he had created two sets of the button magnets - presumably one with gold backgrounds and the other in silver (the examples with bronze colored backgrounds are the least successfully painted examples). Mr. Gorey did not indicate at the time that there were in fact twelve different images or that he had made many more examples. The set of ten button magnets were taken off the front of Mr. Gorey's refrigerator and went home with Ms. Bromer.

After his passing in April 2000, Ms. Bromer decided it was time to part with her extensive Gorey collection and her set of refrigerator button magnets were sold through the catalog. Until the recent auction, only Andreas Brown was aware that Edward Gorey had created a total of 55 buttons - the original 10 that Anne Bromer acquired and the remaining 45 that Mr. Brown had in his store hold of rare and unusual items by Mr. Gorey. 

The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust has been diligently organizing the thousands of items in the Gorey Archive. By coincidence, a sheet with original artwork for four of the button magnets was just recently located. One drawing is shown here (artwork 1.8" x 2"). To see the other three designs on the sheet, follow The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust on Instagram and Facebook.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Fine Art Prints - Part 17

Here at Goreyana, we have been discussing Edward Gorey's career as a fine art printmaker over the course of many years. Two previously unrecorded etchings by Mr. Gorey were sold recently at an auction of material from the inventory of The Gotham Book Mart which closed in 2007. Both of these etchings are unsigned and it is presumed these test prints are one of a kind examples with no other copies known. See my posts for Fine Art Prints - Part 15 and Part 16 for other one of a kind test prints.

The first etching shows three circus tumblers contorting in midair. This is a joyful image with a sense of whimsy about it. One of the interesting things to note is that, because the print is unsigned, there is no way to know precisely which direction Edward Gorey intended it to be oriented. The print was framed by The Gotham Book Mart as shown above, but any side could be up and the print would still look correct.
The second print sold at the auction is quite unique. It is the only known etching in Mr. Gorey's thumb series that is presented in color (he created three colored elephant prints, but they are single color prints). It is also the only print he made using multiple images collected on one page to create a window effect. The paper for this print is 15" x 22", making it the largest etching created by Mr. Gorey

As can be seen by the indentations on the reverse of the paper, the image was created using six individual printing plates. Each image is printed in three colors - three of the images are fairly obvious while the other three have the third color subtly applied. This would require infinite patience and meticulous planning. 
Each of the six plates would be prepared for printing, then the ink would be applied by hand with a roller. All six plates would then be aligned on the table of the press. The paper would be positioned, and the print would go through the press. The paper would be removed so the ink could dry, the ink cleaned off each of the six plates, and Mr. Gorey would alter the drawing on the surface of each plate. The process would start again, re-etching the plates, inking the colors, aligning the plates and paper and running it through the press. The process would start all over again for the third color. The edges of each image are slightly "soft" because no matter how careful he would have been, the plates would never perfectly align from one color to the next. This gives an appropriately atmospheric quality to these images.
To create this type of print, Mr. Gorey would start with the lightest and brightest color in each image. Each time he reprocessed the plate, he would have to add a resist to the areas that he wanted to stay bright and clean so the new color of ink would not "take". He would also draw new details onto the plate for each successive color. Unless Mr. Gorey printed more than one copy of this image, the finished print as shown will be the only example that will ever be possible to create from the plates, because the plates were permanently modified as the print progressed.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

465 Buttons



Are you longing for 465 Edward Gorey designed pin back buttons (109 English Soup buttons shown above)? How about 203 Gorey rubber stamps (some used), or for the true fanatic - 1645 I Saw Dracula T-Shirts in several sizes.

Collectors are prone to hoarding items that we love both as individual objects and occasionally single items in quantity. Both of these collecting interests will be well satisfied at The Great Gotham Gorey Collection auction at Ashcroft and Moore Auction Gallery on April 1. The Gotham Book Mart closed in 2007 and the items in this auction were store inventory that was packed away at that time. There are many unusual promotional posters and (literally) piles of books. To view the items, visit their website or view pieces on Live Auctioneers.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

2021 Edward Gorey House Exhibition


The Edward Gorey House has announced Hapless Children as the theme for this years exhibition which opens April 8 and runs through the end of 2021. Children in peril was a major theme in Edward Gorey's works. Youngsters in his books, illustrations, and prints often found themselves in situations that would defeat most adults, yet his children remain stoic in the face of adversity hoping to live until their next birthday.

For more information and to plan your visit to The Edward Gorey house, visit their webiste HERE


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Murderesses Television Series

It has been announced that AMC is working on a live action series based on Edward Gorey's Neglected Murderesses postcard set. The announcement in Variety appears HERE.

First appearing in Murderess Ink (Workman Publishing, New York, 1979), Neglected Murderesses is a collection of twelve ruthless women - are all killers who disposed of their victims in novel ways. Each enterprising femme fatale is represented as a single image postcard image with a brief, amusing history. One of Mr. Gorey's most reprinted sets, these cards have appeared in no less than 6 publications.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Happy Valentine's Day


 A St. Valentine's Day advertisement for The Hapless Child by Edward Gorey, 1961.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Fan Mail

Like most authors, Edward Gorey received fan mail of all sorts. In the pre-social media days of the 1980's and 90's requests for autographs and written responses to questions arrived through the mail with increasing frequency. His address and phone number were listed in the phone book and with very little effort a fan could track down his address. 

Feeling some sort of responsibility to reply and yet not be overwhelmed by correspondence from fans, Mr. Gorey created a response post card that he hand signed in advance and could address and send as needed. The card has a beautifully detailed illustration showing a cat atop an urn overflowing with unread letters. The cat is telling the recipient that, "You've written me to no avail, Because I never read my mail." 

As part of the Edward Gorey Documentary Project, Mr. Gorey was interviewed on the subject of fan mail. The audio from this interview was animated by Ben Wickey for the documentary. Additional animated interviews from this series can be found on YouTube HERE.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Mr. Earbrass Plays Croquet


I have the good fortune to be married to a man who loves to make special gifts for special occasions. For our 41st anniversary this past November, I received a hand made Mr. Earbrass figure. Recreating a scene from The Unstrung Harp, Edward Gorey's first published work, the intrepid Mr. Earbrass is braving the elements to complete a forgotten game of croquet. The collaged figure is amazingly detailed and everything from his head, hands and feet to his croquet mallet are hand made to scale. In the book, Mr. Earbrass is wearing a fur coat during his attempt to finish his game, but Bill decided to swap out his clothing for his traveling costume shown later in the book. Using bits of fabric with appropriately sized patterns, Mr. Earbrass is stylishly attired to brave the elements.

Bill has always enjoyed creating vintage style toys, and Mr. Earbrass is not just a figurine, he is also a Räuchermännchen, or incense smoker toy. Räuchermännchen were first made around 1850 in the Ore Mountains, a region that forms the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. They usually feature pipe smoking figures in traditional costume and remain popular holiday decorations.

Lifting off the top half of Mr. Earbrass, a metal tray is positioned to accept an incense cone. When lit and the top half of his body replaced, smoke gently emanates from Mr. Earbrass' mouth so that you can see his breath as if he were outside breathing in the chilly air. Here is a video of Mr. Earbrass out in the cold, playing croquet.