Saturday, December 18, 2021

Auction News - A New Record for Gorey Art at Auction

Swann Auction Galleries in New York City held their semiannual Illustration Art Auction on Thursday December 16th. The sale was memorable for the variety and quality of the artwork offered. It also set two new artist auction sale price records. 

The first record came early in the sale for a 1911 masterpiece painting by Edmund Dulac for The Snow Queen which sold for $125,000.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium). This was followed shortly thereafter by a new record auction price for original artwork by Edward Gorey - $27,500.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium) for a 1964  pen & ink book cover design for The Dark Beasts, a paperback collection of stories by Frank Belknap Long (this piece has not been added to my collection).

The 7 3/8" x 9 1/4" black and white image (on a 9 1/4" x 11 1/4" sheet) depicting all manner of demons from Hell has an imaginative nightmare quality not often found in Edward Gorey's works. The writhing beasties bare their teeth and claws at one another while fixing their burning eyes on the viewer. The lyrical elegance of the original black and white artwork was somewhat diminished in the final book jacket design due to the addition of a fiery background and masses of blocky white type crowding amongst the creatures.

The nasty Dark Beasts creatures are siblings to the other worldly monsters Mr. Gorey used three years earlier for his 1961 book The Hapless Child. Members of this Hellish family adorn the covers and one hidden monster is hidden in every drawing within the book. In this volume the monsters are more metaphorical than menacing, being silent commentators rather than active participants in unfolding drama.

The Beast's $27,500.00 sale price (hammer price plus buyer's premium) beat the previous record of $22,500.00 (hammer price plus buyer's premium) for a pair of theater drawings sold at Swann in July 2020. 

Along with three other works by Edward Gorey offered at the December 16, 2020 Swann auction, The Dark Beasts was consigned by The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust and proceeds from the sale will benefit the Trust's charitable mission statement.


Monday, December 13, 2021

Sondheim Collects Gorey


While Edward Gorey sent signed postcards to fans who wrote to him, Stephen Sondheim answered his fan mail with concise personal letters. I am a Stephen Sondheim enthusiast, but it never occurred to me to write him a letter - nor for that matter did I ever write to Mr. Gorey asking for an autograph. The passing of Mr. Sondheim on November 26th has unleashed an avalanche of memorabilia being shown on social media and also being offered for sale. 

For my birthday this past week, I received what can only be described as a Holy Grail piece of Sondheim/Gorey memorabilia - a personal letter from 2005 wherein Sondheim is thanking a friend for the gift of a Gorey booklet, also mentioning that he has a significant collection of Edward Gorey's early books. 

A newly formed Instagram page focusing on Mr. Sondheim's correspondence recently showed a letter from 1984 to the same recipient as the 2005 letter now in my collection. In this earlier, more formal missive, Mr. Sondheim credits Burt Shevelove with introducing him to Gorey's works (this earlier letter is not in my collection)

I do not know whether Gorey and Sondheim ever met; certainly both were involved with theater successes during the same time period and shared a love of language. A collaboration between the two would have been a fascinating project!