The Gory Details of Edward Gorey

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At the request of reader Karen I., today's "Feel Art Again" post features Edward St. John Gorey (1925-2000). The American illustrator and author was most well known for his rather macabre black and white illustrations, but considered himself an author first. The above work is a Gorey illustration from "Very Fine Clock" by Muriel Spark, one of some 60 works Gorey illustrated. (Gorey also wrote 100 of his own books.)

1. For 16 years of his life, Edward Gorey's parents were not married. They divorced when he was 11, in 1936, but remarried in 1952, when Gorey was 27. During the marriage hiatus, though, Gorey's father married Corinna Mura, who appeared in "Casablanca" as the singer and guitarist performing "La Marseillaise" at Rick's Café Américain.

2. At the age of one-and-a-half, Gorey produced his first drawings, which featured passing trains, though Gorey later declared, "they showed no talent whatsoever. They looked like irregular sausages." Two years later, by age three-and-a-half, Gorey had taught himself to read and by age 5, he had read "Dracula" and "Alice in Wonderland." At age 7, he read "Frankenstein" from cover to cover; years later, he remarked that he had been bored by much of the novel, but "it hadn't occurred to me that I could skip anything." One year later, at age 8, he read the works of Victor Hugo.

3. During high school, Gorey supposedly once "painted his toenails green and walked barefoot down Michigan Avenue." According to a high school friend, such a spectacle "was rather shocking in those days." In college, where he roomed with the poet Frank O'Hara, Gorey was known as an Oscar Wilde-esque dandy.

4. For 24 years, from 1957 to 1982, Gorey religiously attended every performance of the New York City Ballet. To Gorey, George Balanchine, the Russian choreographer of the Ballet at that time, was his "god." After Balanchine's death in 1983, Gorey no longer saw any reason to stay in New York, and moved away shortly thereafter.

5. In 1994, Gorey was told he had both prostate cancer and diabetes. Upon receiving the diagnosis, he questioned, "Why haven't I burst into total screaming hysterics?" He answered himself, remarking, "I'm the opposite of hypochondriacal. I'm not entirely enamored of the idea of living forever." Six years later, he passed away of a heart attack.

A larger version of the above illustration is available here.

Fans should check out Ransom Riggs' post on "the melancholy deaths" in Gorey's work; the Edward Gorey Pathfinder; the Edward Gorey House museum; the Edward Gorey Documentary; and this NPR piece on Gorey's musical collaboration with the Tiger Lillies.

"Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com artist suggestions, with details of current exhibitions, or for sources or further reading.

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