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From Aesop To Updike Edward Gorey’s Book Cover Art

Edward Gorey is well know for over 100 written and illustrated works (though not all titles are books) including The Gashlycrumb Tinies and The Doubtful Guest. The author-artists set and costume designs for his award-winning Broadway Dracula, and his animated sequences to PBS Mystery! boosted his creative achievements.

However, this output overshadows his achievements as a much-in-demand illustrator for other authors. While Gorey was busy creating his world of stiff Victorians, sinister Edwardians, doomed infants, strange creatures, stifling interiors and mysterious landscapes, he was also busy creating a significant body of commercial book design for a variety of authors and publishers. Our 2015 exhibit, From Aesop to Updike: Edward Goreys Book Cover Art & Design is a varied sampling of almost five decades of commercial workan integral component (and not just an intriguing sideline) of Edward Gorey's artistry.

Additional Material about the Exhibit: Early Gorey Covers
Between 1953 and 1959 Gorey created fifty covers for Doubleday Anchor and his work defined not only the Anchor line but his own developing style as well: a unique application of hand-lettering instead of standard set fonts, a sparse, dramatic use of spot colors (occasional inks other than black) and an ability to distil a book into a quickly graspable cover design, aided by the fact that he had often read the assigned book, perhaps more than once.

"I hate (Henry James) more than anybody else in the world except for Picasso." -Edward Gorey

From Doubleday Anchor Gorey moved to Looking Glass Library, an imprint focused on children's and young adult titles. Despite the frequent woes that befell children in his own books, Gorey had become increasingly in demand as a children's book illustrator permitting him to become a freelance artist as well as an author, an occupation he successfully pursued for the rest of his life. 

Becoming Edward Gorey 
By the late 50s Gorey had a solidly defined style: a penchant for black and white line art (and selective color usage as budgets permitted). Some of Gorey's favorite artists can be surmised by images in his work. Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Edward Lear and Sir John Tenniel's illustrations in Lewis Carroll's Alice books (although Gorey gave special praise to the Brothers Dalziel for their masterful wood block engravings of Tenniel's pencil drawings). Commercial projects that spun from Gorey's art began to provide needed income, but always with the understanding that the end products would be identifiably Gorey.

As with any commercial illustrator, with gradually increasing demands for his unique "touch", Gorey soon began to be burdened with freelance contract deadlines, and all the while his ever-present muse urged him to create. When asked by Vanity Fair in their Proust Questionnaire, If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? he replied "To be able to say no." His work ethic, which was renown, prevailed. He began to balance his freelance work with his own creative projects. He organized and worked longer hours. Somehow Gorey managed both his commercial working world and his creative endeavors leaving a body of work that remains delightful, diverse and enduring.

From Aesop to Updike Edward Goreys Book Cover Art 

This exhibit runs from April 16th to December 27th, 2015. 

For their assistance in this exhibit, special thanks go to Andreas Brown of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust, Steven Heller, Sam Speigel, Pomegranate Press, San Diego State University, John Carollo and Dr. Joseph Stanton at the University of Hawaii.

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