The Boston Athenæum, a membership library, is currently exhibiting Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey. The suggested admission is $5.00. You may give any amount you wish, but you must give something. Boston Athenæum Members are admitted free as part of membership.

Edward St. John Gorey was born in 1925 in Chicago and died just over a decade ago in 2000 on his beloved Cape Cod. In that seventy-five year span, he wrote, illustrated, and published over 100 books. He also illustrated the writings of other authors including Charles Dickens, Edward Lear, Virginia Woolf, John Updike, and Muriel Spark. Examples of his work have appeared in the New Yorker and the New York Times and his signature Victorian gentlemen and languishing ladies animate the opening credits of PBS’s Mystery series.

Author Karen Wilkin notes, “Gorey remains, like the steepest ascents in bicycle races, hors catégorie. Describing him as — for example — a maker of, in his phrase, ‘mildly unsettling’ books … fails to capture the many facets of this elusive polymath. So does labeling him as writer, artist, poet, or theater person. He is something far more complicated and interesting: a true American original.”

Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey, on view at the Athenæum through the spring of 2011, includes over 150 drawings that Gorey made for over thirty of his books (published between 1953 and 2006), as well as a fascinating assortment of archival material—sketchbooks, illustrated envelopes, book-cover ideas, and theatrical costume designs—all imbued with the macabre sensibility, subtle wit, and charming historicism of Gorey’s characteristic style. Technically brilliant in their economy and precision, these drawings repay repeated inspection and careful introspection with satisfying flashes of recognition, insight, and understanding of the human spirit. In other words, these small, initially unassuming objects perform the inspirational and educational magic of great art.

This exhibition is organized by the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue by curator and critic Karen Wilkin. At the Boston Athenæum, the exhibition is organized by David B. Dearinger, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of Paintings & Sculpture.

Learn more here: Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey

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