Photo courtesy of Matt Ruddick.

One of my favorite artists of all time is Edward Gorey (1925-2000). Famous for his ever-so-slightly ghoulish pen-and-ink drawings, Gorey’s work blends unique tales of children, maidens, and monsters set in unique Victorian and Edwardian styled environments. Some of his work, along with several pieces of inspirational artwork once owned by Gorey, are currently on display at Ball State University’s David Owsley Museum of Art (DOMA) as Gorey’s Worlds.

* Edward Gorey, “It wrenched off the horn of the gramophone, / And could not be persuaded to leave it alone.” Illustration for The Doubtful Guest. Garden City: Doubleday & Company Inc, 1957. Pen and ink on paper. © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

Gorey’s Worlds is an exhibit from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford Connecticut and is the first Gorey exhibit “to contextualize the work of the celebrated American author and illustrator” by “uniting artworks from his personal collection and art of his own creation.”

* Edward Gorey, “Without his clippings, Jasper now wrote long letters to Ortenzia, which went unanswered.” Illustration for The Blue Aspic. New York: Meredith Press, 1968. Pen and ink on paper. © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

A Chicago native, Gorey eventually moved to New York City in the 1950s and began to illustrate book covers. By the 1970s, his work had garnered a cult following from loyal fans who relished in the eccentricity of his work.

In 1977 he designed sets for the Broadway play Dracula and was invited to draw the opening animation for the PBS mystery series aptly named Mystery! (a spin-off of Masterpiece Theatre). His work spanned fifty years, encompassing many prints, set designs, and well over 100 books.

*Edward Gorey, Haunted America, 1990. Watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil on paper. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, American Paintings and Drawings Purchase Fund, 2015.4.1. © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

Gorey’s work is hard to classify - somewhat surrealist and experimental in format. Gorey identified his work as literary nonsense (think Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).

* Unidentified Artist (American), Church and Graveyard, c. 1850. Chalk or charcoal on marble-dusted paper. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Bequest of Edward Gorey, 2001.13.5.

Gorey’s Worlds is unique in that it not only displays the artist’s original work, but also inspirational pieces that provided influence including work from Charles Burchfield, Édouard Manet, Odilon Redon, Bill Traylor, Charles Meryon, Albert York, and Eugène Atget. Together with Gorey’s own work, Gorey’s Worlds combines 130 objects “to encourage a holistic view of Edward Gorey.”

*Edward Gorey, “It eats umbrellas, gunny sacks, / Brass doorknobs, mud, and carpet tacks.” Illustration for The Wuggly Ump. New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1963. Pen and ink on paper. © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

The exhibit is located at DOMA on the campus of Ball State University. As always and as with all DOMA exhibits, Gorey’s World is free and open to the public. The exhibit is available from September 27 through December 21, 2018.

The exhibit is open during DOMA’s regular hours Monday-Friday: 9am-4:30pm; Saturday-Sunday: 1:30-4:30pm. (NOTE: the museum is closed October 6-9 and November 22-25).

*Edward Gorey, Illustration for the front cover of The Hapless Child. New York: Ivan Obolensky, Inc., 1961. Pen and ink on paper. © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

DOMA is also offering specific events related to the exhibit:

November 11, 1:30–4:30pm: Youth Drawing Workshop (For ages 10–15. $30 or $25 for BSU affiliate, $20 for DOMA Friends member. Space is limited and registration required.)

November 17, 3:30pm: Poetry and the Mystery of Gorey (For ages 12 and up. $10 or $5 for BSU affiliate and DOMA Friends member. Space is limited and registration required.)

November 18, 2:30pm: Strange Gorey Story Time (For ages eight and up. $5 per family; registration required.)


* Unless otherwise noted, the works of Edward Gorey in this exhibition have been provided by the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.