Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Finding Gorey In Unlikely Places

Edward Gorey was an illustrator for hire whose work often turns up in unusual places. This is an ad promoting the use of insurance professionals from The American College of CLU & ChFC. The add appeared in Time Magazine in August 1987.

Often, Edward Gorey's illustrations for advertisements have little or no direct relationship to the product they promote, and require a leap of the imagination to make the connection. This disjointed ad has a layout that is visually confusing and leads one to surmise that the art director was simply a fan of Mr. Gorey's work and wanted to get him to do an illustration. The drawing itself, when freed from the constraints of encroaching type, appears to be a typical evening of two people playing cards with a cat resting at their feet. The enormous fan, along with the tag line, "Thomas trusted his mother ,but he always cut the cards" provides the humor to the scene.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fine Art Prints, Part 15

On February 5, 2011 we began a discussion on this blog of the various Fine Art Prints created by Edward Gorey. To view the other blog posts regarding these unique pieces of collectible Gorey artwork, search for Fine Art Prints in the blog's search engine.

Recently, two previously unseen etchings by Edward Gorey appeared at an on line auction (neither are in my collection). Both of these prints appear to be working proofs made by Mr. Gorey at the Cape Cod Conservatory., and neither print appears to have been put into production. Both of these prints have been dated, which was not done on any print editions.

The first etching shows a typical Edward Gorey man in a frock coat and top hat with a child in shapeless garb being confronted by what appears to be a bird. The bird's beak resembles a hooked nose and gives the foul a human expression. This print is dated 1976 in the lower left corner in pencil in Mr. Gorey's hand.

The second etching shows a Bolster leaning against a wall. This print is dated 1977 and has a note about timing written in Mr. Gorey's hand in the lower margin. The note reads, "3 min should have been", indicating that the plate was overexposed to the acid when etched, which would have resulted in the over all darkness of the image. Mr. Gorey made several more Bolster etching plates which were printed after his death. The other Bolster prints have more delicate appearance than this example, which also indicates that this plate was over etched.

Many of Edward Gorey's Fine Art Etchings are available from The Edward Gorey House HERE. Prints can also be found on the secondary market through auctions.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Doll Collector Magazine

The August/September 1990 issue of Dolls - The Collector's Magazine included an article called Give Them A Good Fright by John Darcy Noble. In this essay, the author talks about how 18th & 19th century toys and books were used as cautionary tales to the children of the time.

Mr. Noble establishes a direct influence of these tales and the popularity of works by Edward Gorey. The author also relates how he once used hand made stuffed animal toys by Mr. Gorey to decorate a Christmas tree for the Museum of the City of New York, and the now well known tale of the many stuffed creatures in Mr. Gorey's home that were disemboweled by mice.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Portrait of An Artist Taking a Walk

Portrait of Edward Gorey
by Ben Wickey
A recently commissioned pen, ink, and watercolor portrait

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ben Wickey

Ben Wickey is an immensely talented young artist, illustrator, and film maker. Mr. Wickey's wondrous animations are set to enhance the upcoming (hopefully sometime soon) documentary about Edward Gorey by Christopher Seufert.

Still at the beginning of what promises to be a long career, the singular look and dark humor of Ben Wickey's work calls to mind artists like Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, Ralph Steadman and Henry Selick.

To see works in progress and all of the Edward Gorey animations by Ben Wickey, visit his website HERE.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The House WIth A Clock In Its Walls Movie

The cast for the film adaptation of John Bellairs' The House With A Clock In Its Walls has some additional star power. Kyle MacLachlan has joined previously mentioned stars Jack Black and Kate Blanchette for the film, which begins production next month. MacLachlan will be playing the evil Isaac Izard. Owen Vaccaro has also been signed to play Lewis Barneavelte.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Forty One Barking Dogs

Edward Gorey created many spot illustrations for TV Guide magazine. The wide ranging themes of these assignments challenged the versatility of Mr. Gorey's imagination and talent. Sports, Westerns, and the current (and upcoming) season's programming were all subjects which are not standard themes in Mr. Gorey's work, but which he illustrated with knowledge and humor.
The September 1982 of TV Guide features a spot illustration by Edward Gorey for an article about the filler programming needed in newly formed subscription channels like HBO and The Movie Channel (TCM).  And now, for your intermission pleasure...41 barking dogs! is an article that relates how an "anything goes" style of entertainment in short films is being embraced as filler between shows. In an effort to fill short amounts of time, subjects from quirky to the banal (or "stinkers" as the article states) are all welcomed. The film mentioned in the title is an animated short with 41 dogs barking.
Edward Gorey's artwork for TV Guide is almost always in color, and has a bold quality that is not generally associated with the style of his work. This boldness is a purposeful and direct result of the physical attributes of the magazine itself. Not much larger than a paperback book and cheaply printed, TV Guide was a weekly publication whose articles were short and by necessity, any illustration or photograph was reproduced at a very small size. Edward Gorey was usually adamant that he create original artwork at the size it was to be reproduced, but the pieces made for TV Guide are always drawn large with the intention that they will be greatly reduced and poorly printed. For 41 Dogs, the artwork is 5 1/2" x 7 1/2" and was reproduced at 2 1/2" x 3" (this size is noted in pencil on the artwork). Working at a larger size, Mr. Gorey was free to create poster style images that grab the fleeting attention of the reader.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

New York City Ballet Buttons

 Edward Gorey created many designs for the New York City Ballet to be used on merchandise and for fundraising. I have identified seven designs for pinback buttons, each featuring a ballerina in various costumes. the first button shows the ballerina in warm up or rehearsal clothing. The others are dancing in full costume. Two buttons feature color in their costumes.

According to Gorey bibliographer Edward Bradford, the following button was also available with a chain so it could be worn as a pendant necklace.

 The next two buttons are internet images and are not in my collection.

A final button shows an energetic Gorey Cat in toe shoes against a vivid yellow background dancing the Kitty Ballet. Edward Gorey created several images for the Kitty Ballet.
The Kitty Ballet also had a second button design where the kitty has a "come hither" attitude and pink toe shoes. The button pictured is not in my collection.
One final design is not specifically identified as a New York City Ballet button within the image, but appears to be part of the series. It features a bat and a ballerina. This is an internet image and the button is not in my collection.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Edward Gorey House Envelope Contest

The Edward Gorey house is now accepting entries for its annual Halloween Envelope Art Contest. Now in its 4th year, the contest is open to artists and enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. Contest rules, the entry form (which must accompany the submission), and images of past winners can be found here: Envelope Contest

The deadline for entries to be received by mail is Friday October 27, 2017.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Glen Baxter

Glen Baxter is an artist who was born in Leeds, UK in 1944. Mr. Baxter primarily creates single panel absurdist cartoon panels that are available as collected works in many books. Original artwork is available from several Fine Art Galleries in the United States, England, and France. Mr. Baxter's work often features literary, domestic, and artistic themes combined in unlikely ways with typical British characters. Another favorite theme is the American West, where cowboys interact in unexpected ways with literature and modern art.

Unlike Edward Gorey who created artwork at the size it was intended to be published, Mr. Baxter's prefers to work in a Fine Art sensibility and his pieces range in size from 10" x 15" to massive 41" x 60" pieces. He works in pen & ink and also creates color pieces in pastel and crayon which give them a distinctive look. A number of images have been available as signed, limited edition prints.

Mr. Baxter's first solo art exhibition was held at the Gotham Book Mart in 1974. Edward Gorey attended the opening and was the first person to purchase Mr. Baxter's original artwork. Mr. Gorey acquired several originals at the GBM show and these remained in his personal art collection for the rest of his life. I have seen a lovely photograph of the two artists enjoying drinks and a laugh together at the opening.

At the time of the exhibition in 1974, Gotham Book Mart published Mr. Baxter's Fruits of the World in Danger. Fruits of the World was printed in a unnumbered limited edition of 300 staple bound copies in wrappers. The slim volume shows various fruits in situations that can only lead to disaster. It has been suggested that Fruits of the World inspired Edward Gorey's Menaced Objects, Dogear Wryde Postcards which was published in 1989.

Glen Baxter has published more than 20 books, and many are in print. The most recent volume is Almost Completely Baxter, New and Selected Blurtings . Published in 2016, this book includes black & white and color works.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Martin Landau

Actor Martin Landau died this past weekend at age 89. Mr. Landau played many roles over his long career including the title character in the 1985/85 national tour of the stage revival of Dracula. The tour featured the sets and costumes by Edward Gorey, and I was pleased to attend both performances of the play when it stopped at the Ordway Theater, St. Paul, MN in February 1985. Ten years later, Mr. Landau would once again inhabit the signature cape, earning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood. An article about the casting of Landau in the 1984 theatrical revival can be read HERE.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gorey Stories Caricature

Over the years Edward Gorey adapted his books into "an entertainment with music" several times with mixed success. Gorey Stories was the short lived Broadway production which opened and closed on October 30, 1978. The show was later retooled as Tinned Lettuce (NYU student production 1983), Amphigorey (Off Broadway 1994), and The Gorey Details (Off Broadway 2000).

Some of the original artwork used for set and program designs from the later production has appeared at auction in recent years. Mr. Gorey's original artwork for the Playbill cover for Gorey Stories was sold at Swann Auction Galleries in January 2016. An interesting piece of original artwork by caricaturist Sam Norkin related to Gorey Stories recently surfaced.
Mr. Norkin (1917 - 2011) was a New York born cartoonist who spent his long career producing caricatures for newspaper theatrical reviews. Known as "The Other Hirshfeld", Mr. Norkin's drawings graced the pages of the New York Herald Tribune from 1940 - 1956, after which he worked primarily for the New York Daily News. Mr. Norkin also wrote for newspapers as a theatrical reviewer.

Mr. Norkin created artwork to illustrate reviews for shows playing on Broadway, Off-Broadway and for out of town try-outs. His body of work has recently been offered over the course of several auctions and the shows represent a full spectrum of New York plays and musicals. One piece that caught my eye was created for Gorey Stories. I have acquired the piece, but as yet have not been able to ascertain if it actually appeared alongside a newspaper review. Several reviews of the show did appear in various New York papers, but so far I have only seen photographic illustrations accompanying them.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The House With A Clock In Its Walls Film

John Bellairs fans will be excited to learn that The House With A Clock In Its Walls is being made into film. The book, the first of a series of supernatural tales by author John Bellairs, was published with a dust jacket and interior illustrations by Edward Gorey. The film will be directed by Eli Roth and star Jack Black. The film is expected in theaters in 2019.  An article about the film can be found HERE. (The dust jacket pictured in the article was pulled from my May 7, 2009 blog post about the book)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Auction News

Swann Auction Galleries held an auction of Art, Press, & Illustrated Books on June 13. The auction included eleven lots of limited edition books, posters, and ephemera by Edward Gorey.

Starting the Gorey section was an ultra rare Doubtful Guest Doll with its original box from 1974. This limited edition doll was one of only four lettered examples.

Also of interest was a beautifully printed Elephant In Backstroke etching, and a piece of Dracula Damask wallpaper.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men by Sam Kalda (2017 Ten Speed Press, California) is a delightful volume with profiles and quotes of thirty of history's notable "Cat Men". Included in the list are gentlemen from the thirteenth century to modern times, and this gathering includes such diverse luminaries as Nikola Tesla, Winston Churchill, Marlon Brando, and Freddie Mercury. Of course, no list of this sort would be complete without Edward Gorey and several men who inspired him, including George Balanchine, Edward Lear, and Balthus. This is a lovely book for any cat lover.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Its Raining, Its Pouring

On a rainy day in New York City, it is easy to get lost in the sea of umbrellas. Keep off the heavy raindrops and stand out in a crowd with this wonderful Edward Gorey inspired umbrella, the perfect accessory when it really is raining cats and dogs!

Decorated with various wet felines and dogs, this umbrella is available from The Edward Gorey House Store:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Joan Aiken: The Wolves Chronicles

Joan Aiken (1924 - 2004) was an amazingly prolific author of books, plays, poems, and alternative history novels. One of her most popular book series is the Wolves Chronicles. The Chronicles consist of twelve novels that feature child protagonists. Dido Twite is the heroine in most of the books, and her ingenuity and resourcefulness take her from one adventure to another.

The Wolves Chronicles can be a confusing muddle when first encountered for several reasons. The twelve books were written over the course of 23 years and, like The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the stories were not written or published in the order in which they are finally intended to be read, although some readers prefer to read them in the published order.

Within the series, British historical events have been distorted and changed to suit the author's imagination. In Ms. Aiken's 1800's England, the line of succession in Great Britain now rests with James III, not Queen Victoria because James II was not dethroned in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In addition to this political hocus pocus, the actual geography of England has been altered to suit the stories. Once a reader is aware of these eccentricities, the series becomes much less confusing.

There are multiple English and American hardcover and paperback editions of the stories, and each new printing seems to have different cover designs created by various artists! From a bibliographical standpoint, this series rivals Mr. Gorey's own books for the confusion faced by a collector who wishes to collect a complete set of the Chronicles in all of their variant covers.

Edward Gorey created cover designs for eight of the twelve American editions in the series (some paperback, some hardcover, some both). In fact, Mr. Gorey created a total of thirteen cover designs for eight titles. At the time of his death, he was still working on his own newly redesigned covers for reprints, which was intended to give the books a uniform look. The redesigned artwork is unusual in that a wallpaper background with two round vignettes was drawn by hand, and floating figures relating to each story were placed on top of the background. Each title also has a different scene dropped into the lower vignette. The wallpaper and framing devices for the vignettes were changed after three titles. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase does not seem to have been given this new style of cover design.

The Whispering Mountain (1968) - And so the confusion begins. Most lists, including the list on the Joan Aiken website, start the series with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. The Whispering Mountain usually appears - if it appears at all - as book twelve in the series, but it is intended to be a prequel to to the series, so it can be read first or last! No Gorey designed cover appears to exist for this book.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962) - The first edition hard cover of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a highly desired collectible for both Aiken and Gorey collectors, and this volume commands a premium price. The dust jacket design for the original hard cover (on the left) is a classic Gorey cover, conveying the menace and flavor of the story in a deceptively simple illustration. The original artwork was reused for a paperback reprinted version (right), but by masking the image, much of  the drama of the original layout has been lost.

Black Hearts at Battersea (1964) - The original American paperback version (above left) has a cover design by Edward Gorey that sets up a format that will be used for much of the series. The framing of the artwork is a disappointment, since the addition of the yellow border minimizes the impact of the art by making the image appear cramped. The female figure's yellow dress has become an afterthought instead of a focal point. Mr. Gorey's redesigned wallpaper style cover is on the right.

Nightbirds on Nantucket (1966) - The redesigned cover is shown on the left. I have yet to locate a copy of Nightbirds with the original Gorey cover artwork. Original artwork from many of these stories was released by Mr. Gorey, and several pieces have come up for sale over the years. On the right, I am showing the preliminary (center) and final (right) original artwork for this title that was offered by Gotham Book Mart. None of the original artwork from the series is in my collection.

The Stolen Lake (1981) - The original Edward Gorey paperback is on the left, and his redesigned cover on the right.

Limbo Lodge (1999) - Due (no doubt) to the lateness of this publication, no cover by Gorey appears to exist.

The Cuckoo Tree (1971) - The original Edward Gorey cover on the left, the redesigned cover in the center, and the original artwork on the right.

Dido and Pa (1986) - The original Edward Gorey hardback on the left, the paperback is in the center, and the redesigned cover on the right. I have records showing the original painting for this cover was sold in 2003 in an online auction.

Is Underground (1992) - The hardback dust wrapper by Edward Gorey (shown on the left) is the most striking cover produced for the series. The impression that one has entered Hell is simply and effectively executed through the use of perspective and intense color. In 1997, Mr. Gorey pulled out his flaming orange paints once again for the back cover of The Bell, The Book, and The Spellbinder by Brad Strickland. An earlier version of the original artwork for this title is shown on the right. This book was titled IS in England and the title was changed for the American edition. The original art shown on the right appears to be a fully finished version, not a sketch, meaning that Mr. Gorey completely recreated the art when the title was changed. This is somewhat surprising since the escutcheon with the revised title could have easily been redrawn and added over the old title - a technique used often by the artist. For the final published version, Mr. Gorey's painting technique on the fiery orange clouds is more carefully blended and less visceral than in the first attempt.

Cold Shoulder Road (1995) - Edward Gorey employed his famous "mushroom colors" for the American hardcover and paperback versions of this title. This title and Is Underground finally dispensed with the irritating colored border that usually appears on the paperback versions, and both paperback and hardcover copies show the full image without distraction. 

Midwinter Nightingale (2003) - This title was published after 2000, so no cover by Edward Gorey exists.

The Witch of Clatteringshaws (2005) - This title was published after 2000, so no cover by Edward Gorey exists.