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THE LAST SURREALIST? Edward Gorey. Tim Burton, David Lynch his Fans!

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edwardgoreyEdward Gorey is an eccentric great american illustrator. Before Tim Burton there was him. He has produced books as large as a postage stamp, no text books, animated books, in an ongoing attempt to surprise and stimulate the reader not to take anything for granted. Legendary film maker David Lynch is a self confessed fan of Gorey’s dark humour which is quite evident in his  breakthrough film Eraserhead.

The Chicago-born artist illustrated worked on books by authors including Samuel beckett, TS Eliot, Edward Lear and Muriel Spark , as well as drawing new pictures forAesop’s Fables and the Brer Rabbit stories.

Gorey was widely considered to be an eccentric throughout his life and in the 25 years between 1957 and 1982 he did not miss a performance by the New York City Ballet, attending in an outfit consisting of an enormous fur coat and white tennis shoes, he also lived alone his entire life never forming relationships except for friends and his many many cats.

“I eg (2)am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of catfish.” , “I’d rather be a little weird than all boring”. ‘Books, Cats, Life is Good.’ (Gorey)

His work often old in verse and illustrated in a style that crosses Surrealism with the Victorian true-crime gazette, are set in some unmistakably British place, in a time that is vaguely Victorian, Edwardian and Jazz Age all at once.

Such historically minded analyses can lose sight of the straightforward delights of Gorey’s art, his astonishing draftsmanship and pitch-perfect composition, informed by a lifelong love of film, theater and ballet.  Many of the images “look like theater sets, so there’s that dramatic appeal to it.  They’re very well composed, easy to read, yet there’s enough detail in them that every time you look at them you’ll see something you hadn’t seen before.

He illustrated works as diverse as Dracula by Bram Stoker, The War of teh worlds by H.G. Wells, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. In later years he produced cover illustrations and interior artwork for many children’s books by John Bellairs, as well as books begun by Bellairs and continued by Brad Strickland after Bellairs’ death.

His first independent work, The Unstrung Harp, was published in 1953. He also published under pen names that were anagrams of his first and last names, such as Ogdred Weary, Dogear Wryde, Ms. Regera Dowdy, and dozens more. His books also feature the names Eduard Blutig (“Edward Gory”), a German language pun on his own name, and O. Müde (German for O. Weary).

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