Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey
Hardcover smyth-sewn casebound book, with jacket. 124 pages with more than 175 color and black-and-white illustrations and exhibition checklist.
Size: 8½ x 10½ in.
The delightful tales and quick-witted drawings of Edward Gorey (American, 1925–2000) reflect a special kind of genius that resides in the effect of what is left unwritten and unseen. In Gorey’s vaguely Victorian world of well-tended gardens and opulent estates, smoke-belching factories and fog-shrouded streets, nothing seems certain or quite as it should be. The probability of chaos lurks just beneath life’s tidy surface, occasionally erupting in surprising events with unexpected, perhaps horrific consequences. But when tragedy befalls Gorey’s quirky cast of characters—hapless waifs, dusty dowagers, scheming tycoons, and unhinged maidens—sometimes we are permitted to laugh. Far from being morbid, Gorey simply reminds us to relax occasionally, and contemplate mortality.
In Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey, more than 175 reproductions offer a rich review of his work, including samples from Gorey’s books, illustrations produced for other writers, theatrical sets and costume designs, and a wealth of individual pieces, many never before published. Sketches, typewritten manuscripts, doodles, and musings join the generous selection of finished works, which include his trademark finely detailed ink drawings and watercolors.
The text by Karen Wilkin, an expert on Gorey and a friend of the artist, offers an intimate review of his career, with insights that provide a fresh understanding of Gorey’s life and work.
Published on the occasion of the first major traveling exhibition of Edward Gorey’s work, organized by the Brandywine River Museum, Elegant Enigmas is a long-overdue tribute to a master artist and writer, who with sharp intellect and devastatingly wry humor created a body of work singular in its brilliance and charm.
About the ARTIST
Edward St. John Gorey was a Harvard grad, a brilliant artist, a celebrated set and costume designer (his costumes for a Broadway production of Dracula earned him a Tony Award), a lover of animals (particularly cats) and the arts (he seldom missed a performance of the New York City Ballet), and an avid deltiologist—an obscure word so Gorey—like you might think he invented it himself (it means “a collector of postcards”). His humorously unsettling drawings of vaguely Victorian innocents often facing unfortunate ends became familiar to a wide audience after appearing in the opening credits of the PBS television series Mystery!
About the AUTHOR
Karen Wilkin, a curator and critic specializing in twentieth-century modernism, is the co-author of The World of Edward Gorey (Abrams, 1996) and the author of Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey (Harcourt, 2001), as well as monographs on Anthony Caro, Stuart Davis, Hans Hofmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Giorgio Morandi, and David Smith. She is a regular contributor to The New Criterion, Art in America, and The Wall Street Journal, and a contributing editor for art for The Hudson Review.