During his lifetime, Edward Gorey (1925-2000) published over 100 works, designed sets and costumes for countless theater productions, created popular animations, and illustrated works for a wide array of authors from Charles Dickens and John Updike to Virginia Woolf and H.G. Wells. "Elegant Enigmas," organized by the Brandywine River Museum, is the first traveling exhibition of Gorey's work, and a long-overdue tribute. The exhibition features approximately 180 original works, many never before exhibited, including selections from "The Gashlycrumb Tinies," "The Doubtful Guest," "The Unstrung Harp," "The Gilded Bat," and other well-known publications, drawn primarily from the extensive archives of The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust and significant private collections.
Gorey's imaginative and often enigmatic books are filled with Edwardian-inspired images of genteel ladies, men in smoking jackets, children in pinafores and sailor suits, and maids in proper uniform. The stories are a mixture of the ordinary and the ominous, with non sequiturs and brief statements that often leave as much to the imagination as they reveal. They cover a wide array of subjects from the ballet to a haunted tea-cosy to wickedly funny "alphabet" books, showcasing his finely detailed pen and ink drawings.
While the images that accompany Gorey's minimalist text appear simple, the pen work is often complex. These eloquent images might complement his text and on other occasions raise puzzling questions. Gorey rarely depicts murder or mayhem, portraying instead the actions that precede an event or suggest the immediate aftermath. His characters' lack of emotion encourages the viewer to supplement the ongoing narrative. The result is often a delicate balance between the hilarious and ominous uncertainty. When asked about the effect of his work on readers Gorey replied, "In a way I hope it is mildly unsettling."
Karen Wilkin, Gorey scholar and author of the illustrated catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, writes that the successful "decoding [of] any of his references can simultaneously confer a sense of having been admitted to an inner sanctum and an awareness of how much else you are undoubtedly missing." Wilkin delivers an insightful and intimate review of Gorey's career and provides fresh insights in exploring his life and work.
Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey is on view from March 21 through May 17. The Brandywine River Museum is located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The museum is open daily, except Christmas Day, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for seniors, students and children ages 6 to 12; and free for children under six and members. Museum admission is free from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Sunday mornings in March.
For more information, please call 610-388-2700 or visit the museum's website at www.brandywinemuseum.org.
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Dedicated to preserving art and the environment. The Brandywine River Museum has works by 3 generations of Wyeths and regional art. The Environmental Management Center protects the natural resources of the Brandywine watershed and selected areas.