CHADDS FORD, PA.- Uninvited guests, falling masonry and carnivorous plants fill the unique, imaginary world of artist and author Edward Gorey. Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey, an exhibition on view from March 21 through May 17, celebrates this artist and writer, whose masterful pen and ink illustrations and ironic, offbeat humor have brought him critical acclaim and an avid following throughout the world.
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."