Edward Gorey was an American author and artist. He was born in 1925 in Chicago and died in 2000 in Barnstable, Massachusetts. After serving in the military during World War II, he studied French literature at Harvard. There he will met with several poets such as Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery. It is in this creative effervescence that he will develop an interest for different type of art such as drawing, writing, poetry, etc.
After Harvard, Edward Gorey moved to New York. He started his career as an illustrator mainly for the publisher Doubleday Anchor. He illustrated numerous literature books from writers such as André Gide, Herman Melville, Colette, Marcel Proust, Anton Chekhov, Gogol and many more. We can already notice the peculiarities of his style.
- My Mother’s House and the Vagabond, Colette, Doubleday, 1955
- Tales of Good and Evil, Nikolai Gogol, Doubleday, 1957
- Picture of Millie, P. M. Hubbard, London House & Maxwell, 1964
- What Maisie Knew, Henry James, Doubleday, 1954
At some point Edward Gorey stopped illustrating other writers’ books and decided to write and illustrate his own. Throughout his career he wrote and illustrated more than 100 books. Among the most popular we can name The Doubtfull Guest (1957), which is describing the arrival of a strange creature in the life of a family living in the Edwardian era. The Hapless Child (1961), the personal interpretation of Edward Gorey of the novel Sara Crewe or What Happened at Miss Minchin’s (1988) written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963), an alphabet book which for each letter reveal how children of the story died (see pictures below). The Loathsome Couple (1977), inspired by the Moors Murders. The story of a couple who murdered children. In 1977 Edward Gorey was also in charge of the costumes and scenic design for the play Dracula in Broadway. In 1980, he created the animated opening sequence of the TV show Mystery!.
Edward Gorey definitely had a sense for macabre humor. His stories were always imbued with peculiar, bizarre, dark and gruesome atmosphere. Many of his books took place during Victorian and Edwardian era. It creates a distant and elegant ambiance, with a touch of nostalgia. His pen and ink style his unusual. The lines are thick and a special care is taken to create contrast between black and white. It is this gap between the heavy topics covered and the apparent naivety of drawings, which create the special style of Edward Gorey. We can also find commonalities with the work of Tim Burton, especially with his book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy.