Saturday, April 24, 2010

Edward Gorey

For those of you who don't know Edward St. John Gorey by name you will surely recognize him through his drawings. His highly stylized, black and white pen illustrations and eerie poems and stories have been featured everywhere from children's books, notebooks, calendars, and cards, to the opening title sequence of PBS's Mystery! (was any child growing up in the 80's not disturbed by the wailing woman on the wall?).

This definitely brings back memories; watching my parents curl up on the couch on a rainy evening to watch Rumpole of the Bailey, or The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, according to my mother I was born at 3 pm on a Thursday in 1984 and my parents did everything they could to leave the hospital with enough time to catch Rumpole by 8 o'clock. Anyway, I really wish Edward Gorey had made more animations like this. They're quite hypnotic.

Born in Chicago (an American!) in 1925, he spent one semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1943, then spent 2 years in the Army stationed at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah (hello!), then attended Harvard University where he studied French (a language I WILL learn one day--hey, I already know Spanish), and then basically became a professional Illustrator once he moved to New York from 1953 to 1960 and worked for Doubleday Publishing.

Mr. Gorey was quite fond of cats...

and tennis shoes...

and fur coats...

...and ballet. I knew I felt akin to him for some reason! He didn't miss a single performance of the New York City Ballet for years, attending each one dressed in a full-length fur coat and tennis shoes. Ah, only the eccentricities of an established artist can be construed as genius.

Mr. Gorey also had an extensive knowledge of literature and devoured pop-culture by watching soap operas, comedies, and dark TV series such as Batman: the Animated Series, and the X-Files (could this man be any cuter?). He never married (was purportedly asexual), and in later years resided in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod (how quintessentially Edward Hopper-esque, no?), until his death in 2000.

His style has influenced film and animation for decades and continues to do so today, as with the directors Tim Burton and Henry Selick, who drew heavily from his delicate etchings as inspiration for the sets on The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline.

Uneasy, macabre, and with a slightly twisted sense of humor, Gorey's stories, which nearly always take place in Victorian and Edwardian settings, have developed a cult following and continue to captivate audiences of all sorts, especially those of the Goth subculture.

"Each night Father fills me with dread
When he sits at the foot of my bed;
I'd not mind that he speaks
In gibbers and squeaks,
But for seventeen years he's been dead".

-The Listing Attic, by E.G.

Mr. Gorey was my "first" favorite illustrator before I knew of many others, and he will always hold a special place in my heart. Please enjoy some pieces from the great and gory Edward. May he rest in peace (although he's probably having more fun in death than in life).


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