Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Broken Spoke Original Artwork

I acquired one of the pieces of original artwork by Edward Gorey that was offered at The Edward Gorey Cocktail Party; or, A Nocturne At The Strand silent auction. 

Valse Degueulasse (Disgusting Waltz) was created in 1976 for Edward Gorey's book The Broken Spoke. This book is a collection of Gorey-created postcard images in disparate styles, each with the common theme of bicycles. 

Edward Gorey rarely sold original artwork from the books he wrote and illustrated, because he wanted the art to be available for subsequent reprints and exhibitions. These works have come to be known as the "A" Collection" publications. Mr. Gorey did make a couple of exceptions and sold art from at least two "A" Collection" books.

Why did Edward Gorey sell the art from The Broken Spoke? In 1979 the artist was approached by The Graham Gallery in New York City to be part of a group exhibition for the holiday season. Mr. Gorey had previously participated in two shows at Graham (1974 & 1975) and for both of these shows he created new works. Rather than create new pieces for this show, Mr. Gorey decided to sell artwork from The Broken Spoke

The postcard format of The Broken Spoke dictated that each image included in the book was a singular piece of art that was not part of a larger story, so selling the individual pieces was easier than breaking up a manuscript-style book. The related subject matter of bicycles lent continuity to the images, which would have appealed to the gallery.

Valse degueulasse is a tongue in cheek advertising postcard image for Edward Gorey's book The Epiplectic Bicycle, which was published in 1969. Created seven years after the book it promotes, Mr. Gorey pays homage to his earlier work.  

The Epiplectic Bicycle has long been my favorite book by Edward Gorey. Knowing that the art from this book will remain in the archives of the Edward Gorey Trust, Valse deueulasse became something of an obsession with me once it was announced for inclusion in the silent auction.

In The Broken Spoke, this advertising postcard has been titled (Advertisement) on the facing page.

Individual pieces of art from The Broken Spoke are always entertaining and beautifully executed. The styles vary wildly from piece to piece, showing Edward Gorey's stylistic virtuosity and his command of a variety of artistic techniques.

The sparse composition of Valse degueulasse is a masterclass in composition and restraint.The background is left a pristine white, giving the drawing a lighter than air sensation, enhancing the movement of the figures caught in their unlikely dance. The viewer's eye cannot help but move about the drawing, pausing but briefly at the hand lettered title and speech bubbles before sliding down the alligator's tail, up his back and then down again to land on the seat of the bicycle. Like a roller coaster ride set to music the eye is constantly kept in perpetual motion moving in a circular fashion around the image.

Like most drawings for his A Collection publications, Edward Gorey dated this piece of art on the back of the drawing in the lower right corner. The two dates 31.iii.76 - 31.iii.76 (March 31, 1976 - March 31, 1976) show that the drawing was completed in one day.

The fineness of the line in this drawing is exemplary. The control needed to place the tiniest of dots for the slightly off center pupil in the alligators eye gives the beast expression. The dot is more pronounced in scans and printed versions of the drawing itself. Viewing the drawing in person, the dot is almost invisible.  

This was the final piece of interior postcard art from The Broken Spoke that remained in the Gorey archives, all the others having sold either through Graham Gallery or The Gotham Book Mart. The one remaining original piece from Broken Spoke in the archive is the sumptuous full color cover painting. This spectacular painting has been included in several museum shows of Edward Gorey's works.

No comments: