The Suitcase Lady


October 23, 2012, 10:18 pm

Halloween is fast approaching, but I am not into blood and gore. I am, however, a fan of Gorey, Edward St. John Gorey to be precise.

Gorey is one of my favorite artists and writers, one who never ceases to bring pleasure. Born in a suburb of Chicago in 1925, Gorey describes the start of his artistic career as follows:

“My first drawing was of trains that passed by my grandparents’ house …the composition was of various sausage shapes.”

His formal art training consisted of one semester at The Chicago Art Institute. He was then drafted and served as a clerk at the Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City. “They tested mortars and poison gas,” he stated. “Whenever you read that somewhere in the Western states twenty thousand sheep have expired for some mysterious reason, it’s always the Dugway Proving Ground.”

After his service, he enrolled at Harvard and majored in French literature. Shortly after graduation, Gorey moved to New York City where he lived in a one room studio apartment with three of his beloved cats. Doubleday initially employed him as an illustrator and book jacket designer. He subsequently worked on scores of books including a wonderfully droll version of Little Red Riding Hood. Soon he began writing and illustrating his own books, often under pseudonyms that were anagrams of his own name such as Ogdred Weary, Dogear Wryde, Wardore Edgy and Mrs. Regera Dowdy.

Edward Gorey became “absolutely hooked” on George Balanchine and The New York City Ballet. No fan will ever be more loyal. In his full length fur coat, sneakers and ring encrusted fingers, he attended nearly EVERY performance of the NYCB for over thirty years. He once attended 39 performances of the Nutcracker in a row.

In his later years, Mr. Gorey lived in Yarmouth Port in Cape Cod. The number of cats expanded and a raccoon once lived happily in the attic. His artistic output was prodigious, yet he found time to work for local theaters, scout out yard sales and watch TV (he loved Dallas).

Edward Gorey died in 2000; his home is now a museum of his art, life and creatures.

One reviewer describes Gorey’s style as,”Macabre yet delicate; grim but amusing; ghoulish without a drop of blood.” Intricately detailed black and white drawings are his hallmark. Gorey’s costumes for the Broadway production of Dracula received a Tony award in 1978.

Get yourself in an ominous Halloween mood by checking out his artwork for the opening of the PBS Mystery! series. Click here.


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