Saturday, 7 November 2020

The Eccentric life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

....oh my Giddy aunt, I was not expecting to read two Edward Gorey biographies back to back, delightful as the experience was. A double bill I never saw coming until I was ready for it, I suppose. Two lovely biographies written with great insight and affection for an extraordinary artist who not only walked the walk but wore the to speak. I generally avoid reading books with the same subject matter one after another  so as not to dilute the affect of what I may learn, or undermine by familiarity. Some people may be well read, I am thinly read. 

         Like so many people, I bet, I was under the impression that Edward Gorey was an artist from another century, not the one we left behind two decades ago but the one which ended one hundred and twenty years ago. The visuals he produced with pen and ink and brush were so off another era and felt so "lived" I thought for sure this was a man who came from the same era as Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear. This turned out to misjudged as while the characters and scenes may well be draped in a faux Edwardian Victorianna he was in all other respects quite thoroughly modern. So much so that when I finished one volume I was drifting into another before I knew it, basking in the Gorey details. 

         One of the most surprising things I discovered about Edward Gorey's art was the books are actual sized reproductions of the original work. I had assumed , something perhaps one should never do with regard to the creative process, that the incredibly intricate line-work was produced on a larger scale, then reduced to fit the format that is now so recognisably Gorey. Edward Gorey's little art books stand out in whatever book store they are displayed, owing little to the formats art books are generally reproduced as. He has made that format so much his own and gradually won over many a book seller who initially found displaying his work and output awkward. That in itself becomes a lovely word to convey the otherness of Edward Gorey's body of work, beautifully awkward. Well, it works for me. 

           And it worked for so many, many more, generation after generation. Edward Gorey once described his subject matter as "literary nonsense", a field in itself with an artfully crafted series of visions of melancholia and world weary ennui. His faux Edwardian chique winning a legion of appreciators. His art world and publishing credentials aside he also made a significant impact on the theater world with contributions to the 1977 stage revival of Dracula with his costume designs bagging him a Tony award and a nomination for Best Set Design, which many since felt he should have won. he is even more remembered and even reverred for his short animated into for the PBS series MYSTERY, with the introduction by host Vincent Price who welcomed all watching to the Gorey Mansion. Generations found that animated introduction being craftily imbedded in the walls of the minds of their personal theater, carrying it with them in their collected imaginations. Appreciating as adults that which they knew as children to be unique and cool. 

            Edward Gorey cut a striking looking figure, every inch the self created Bohemian. Pioneering a bearded aesthetic years ahead of its time, swathed in a body length fur coat with every finger adorned with rings. A hand made eccentric, molded by his own artistic inclinations into a form of his own devising. There was a noticable "sexlessness" in his artwork, something that may well have bled in from his personal life. In his own words; " I am neither one thing nor the other particularly. I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something. i have never said that I am gay but I have never said that I was not. What I am trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else. I suppose I am gay but I do not identify with it much."

            These were two lovely books, written by two fellows keen to share the details they learned about this quite mysterious man who pulled a curtain about his self created world, opening it at times to let us peek at the wonders he was capable off. The two books sit so comfortably next to each other, each filled with pictures and photographs that reveal a life lived artistically.