September 10, 2018
Edward Gorey, “It wrenched off the horn of the gramophone, / And could not be persuaded to leave it alone.” Illustration for The Doubtful Guest. Garden City: Doubleday & Company Inc, 1957. Pen and ink on paper. © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.
The David Owsley Museum of Art (DOMA) presents a unique exhibition of art by Edward Gorey along with the art he consumed and collected. “Gorey’s Worlds” is on view from September 27 through December 21, 2018.
Edward Gorey, Phantasmagorey, 1974. Pen and ink with collage on paper. Collection of Clifford Ross.
“Gorey’s Worlds,” an exhibition organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, is the first to contextualize the work of celebrated American author and illustrator Edward Gorey (1925-2000) by uniting artworks from his personal collection and art of his own creation. The exhibition at DOMA is free and open to the public, and the museum serves as the sole Midwestern venue offering this rare glimpse into the creative life of the Chicago-born artist.
In 2001, Gorey bequeathed 73 objects he accumulated to the Wadsworth Atheneum, the only public institution to receive such a gift from him. Ranging from 19th-century European prints and modernist American drawings to contemporary art from the 1970s and 1980s, these works offer an in-depth look into Gorey’s artistic inspiration. Defining works from this gift — by Édouard Manet, Charles Meryon, Eugène Atget, and Albert York — are integrated with 50 of the artist’s own illustrations and key personalia. In total, more than 130 objects combine to encourage a holistic view of Edward Gorey.
“This close connection to the art Gorey collected with that of his own creation provides insight into what sparked his creativity and reveals Gorey’s clever and playful sense of humor,” says Erin Monroe, Robert H. Schutz, Jr., Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, who organized the exhibition. “DOMA brings a myriad of teaching opportunities inspired by Gorey’s rich cultural connections, such as literature, art history, theater, and illustration. The artist’s Midwestern roots are often forgotten, making DOMA the ideal venue to bring his work to Ball State students and the greater Indiana region.”
Gorey’s prolific career spanned more than 50 years; he is best known for his pen and ink illustrations of tales of hapless children, kohl-eyed swooning maidens and whimsical creatures, depicted with little or no text in a distinctly Gothic style. His repertoire of illustrations, book cover designs and prints is vast, and forays into popular work include the opening sequence to PBS’s “Mystery!” and set design for the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “Dracula” (1977).
Charles Ephraim Burchfield, Study of Bats in Flight, c. 1954-63. Conté crayon on wove paper mounted on cardboard.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Bequest of Edward Gorey, 2001.13.34.
While Gorey’s own work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, “Gorey’s Worlds” is the first to bring together his work with the contents of his art collection. A catalogue published by the museum and Princeton University Press accompanies the exhibition.
The exhibition is organized thematically. Groupings explore the creative and aesthetic worlds Gorey admired. Shared subjects include the ballet, animals and creatures, Gothic scenery and empty landscapes, Surrealist art, and literary nonsense.
Some similarities are readily apparent — Charles Burchfield’s “Study of Bats in Flight” (c. 1954-63) bears comparison with Gorey’s bat-embellished set designs for the Broadway production of “Dracula” (1977). The depiction of figures in a cave, seen from behind, from the American folk art sandpaper drawing “The Magic Lake” (c. 1850) strongly resembles a scene from Gorey’s wordless tale “The Prune People” (1983). Gorey’s own book “The Lavender Leotard” (1973) is (ostensibly autobiographically) subtitled “Going a Lot to the New York City Ballet.” Others are subtler — many of Gorey’s settings resonate with the artwork he collected such as the eerily vacant land and streetscape photographs of Eugène Atget.
Public Program Highlights
DOMA is open seven days a week, and admission is always free. Visit the museum's website for hours, exhibitions, and other programs events for children and adults.
Upcoming public programs include:
- September 28 and October 26, from 6-9 p.m.: Final Fridays — free programs with refreshments, demonstrations, and PechaKucha talks — inspired by “Gorey’s Worlds.”
- October 11, 6 p.m.: Erin Monroe, curator of “Gorey’s Worlds,” will give a richly illustrated talk about the artist and the special exhibition.
- December 8, 2:30 p.m.: Free, docent-led tour of “Gorey’s Worlds.”
Major support provided by Connecticut Humanities, the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, and Clifford Ross. Additional support provided by James B. Lyon, IFPDA Foundation, and Robert and Sharon Smith.
Program support provided in part by the Richard P. Garmany Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Support for the Wadsworth Atheneum provided in part by Newman's Own Foundation and the Greater Hartford Arts Council's United Arts Campaign.
This special exhibition was brought to Ball State University by support from the Friends of the David Owsley Museum of Art.
Unless otherwise noted, the works of Edward Gorey in this exhibition have been provided by the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.