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Art Historian highlighting histories that need to be heard.

A look at why Edward Gorey is making a comeback, 20 years posthumous.

During Edward Gorey’s life, his fame never spread far beyond his relatively small cult following. Balancing dark humor with childhood whimsy struck a delicate balance that many art aficionados and literary consumers failed to appreciate at the time. In recent years, though, Gorey’s fame has broken through the “cult classic” stigma and he has started to grow into a mainstream name. Wandering through local book stores, merchandise from tote bags to board games are all decorated in Gorey’s illustrations.

But why now?

There was never a time…

Taking a deeper look at two of Edward Gorey’s most notorious works.

Photographs of the covers of Edward Gorey’s books, “The Doubtful Guest” (1957) and “The Curious Sofa” (1961), held in hands for scale. “The Doubtful Guest” is bright yellow with a black penguin-like creature standing alone beside an urn and “The Curious Sofa” depicts an open door showing the corner of a red sofa couch with a pair of feet visible upon it. Original photograph by Maura Wilson, MAH.
Covers of Edward Gorey’s “The Doubtful Guest” (1957) and “The Curious Sofa” (1961), held in hands for scale. Original photograph by Maura Wilson, MAH.

Even during his lifetime, Edward Gorey counted himself among the Surrealists. Surrealism was an artic movement, enveloping both the literary and visual art medium worlds, that focused on the possibilities contained within the subconscious. For Gorey, he was primarily intrigued with the possibility of creating other worlds. Referring to a philosophy put forth by Raymond Queneau, one of the founders of the Surrealist movement, Gorey said that he liked the idea that “the world is not what it seems — but it isn’t anything else either”.

In a…

A pretty Gorey look at Edward Gorey’s life.

The late illustrator Edward Gorey in the kitchen of his home at Yarmouth, Cape Cod in August, 1999. Image source: Wikimedia Commons. (public domain)

Edward Gorey. Even without knowing his name, his work is immediately recognizable. Comprised of spindly figures and dark, anxiety-provoking cross hatching, Edward Gorey established a distinctly American macabre style that appeals to alternative children and adults alike.

The victim of a self-described unextraordinary childhood, Edward Gorey was an extraordinary child. In interviews, Gorey often nonchalantly spoke on the fact that he had taught himself to read by the age of three, stating that he had taught himself “before anyone thought of doing it”. Some of his childhood favorites were books you might…

Maura Wilson, MAH

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