In 2001, the Wadsworth Atheneum received a bequest of 73 works of art—primarily works on paper and photographs—owned by the American illustrator, writer, and designer Edward Gorey (1925–2000). Although Gorey’s own work has been the subject of countless exhibitions since the early 1970s, the works he collected and the artists his admired have never been fully explored. Gorey’s Worlds will offer a unique opportunity to discover the myriad interests and influences of this iconic cultural figure and will reveal connections between the artists that encouraged his imagination and influenced the worlds he invented.
Gorey’s taste attracted him to an eclectic selection of artists, styles, subjects, and media. This exhibition will showcase approximately 80 objects, including photographs by Eugene Atget, European and American drawings by Pierre Bonnard and Charles Burchfield, prints by Charles Meryon and Francisco de Goya, and illustrations by George Booth and James Thurber. The artworks he collected will be displayed alongside his own illustrations, book cover designs, correspondence, and personal effects.
Born in Chicago in 1925, Gorey was a precocious child who began drawing and reading at an early age. He revisited drawing while serving as a clerk during WWII. After the war, he studied French Literature at Harvard University. Gorey moved to New York City after graduation and was hired to design covers for the Anchor Division of Doubleday books. Throughout his lengthy career, Gorey regularly accepted commercial work—such as illustrations for TV Guide, Playboy, and The New Yorker—to support his own literary and artistic projects.
As a devoted patron of the New York City Ballet, Gorey held the Wadsworth Atheneum particularly in high regard due to a shared admiration for the famed choreographer George Balanchine; it was the Wadsworth Atheneum’s pioneering director A. Everett “Chick Austin Jr. who brought the Russian-born talent to American in 1933. The Wadsworth Atheneum was the only public institution to receive objects from Gorey’s personal art collection after his death.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website