Artist and author Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was a child prodigy. He taught himself to draw by age two and to read by age 3, he skipped early years of school. Prior to college he served in World War II from 1943 until after the war. After which he attended Harvard where he was very active in numerous artistic interests and then went on to become an illustrator for Doubleday Anchor. There, he designed more than fifty covers and became recognized as a major commercial illustrator. Gorey moved through multiple other publishing houses before going free-lance in the mid-1960s. It’s said that he created covers for over 300 books of other authors in addition to his own, personal creations.
As early as 1939, Gorey began exhibiting his delightful art and in 1953 he published what is considered one of the early pre-cursors to the graphic novel movement, The Unstrung Harp. It didn’t take long for Gorey’s writings and art to begin receiving serious critical reviews and praise. In 1972 he published his first anthology, Amphigorey – this is the book by which I discovered his works and fell ever after in love. I went on to collect Amphigorey Again and many of his individual prints and books of art. I love his quirky cross-hatch prints and books so much that I began attending auctions in search of first editions and signed works. Perhaps my favorite is The Gashleycrumb Tinies in which “N is for Neville who died of ennui.”
What I love most about Gorey is that his creations refuse to be categorized. All of his artwork seems to come together in a tone of casual, impending doom. His work is so compellingly original that their specific aesthetic is referred to as “Goreyesque.” Part of their delightful eeriness is how all the art and stories seem to unfold in a setting that feels somehow outside of time. As if he has bottled a moment we would never stumble across in life but feel is all too familiar to us in its absurdity. Most of all, his works, even his commercial work, reflects what all of us as artists desire most. He lived how he wanted and made work that called to him. Many people believe that his life was his art but I believe his art was his life as a self-actualized individual.