Biography: Edward St. John Gorey (1925–2000) was a Chicago-born writer and artist noted for his illustrated books, as well as his theatrical designs. His characteristic pen-and-ink drawings often depict vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings. He illustrated over 100 of his own works, and over 300 books for other authors.
An artist of international stature, his writings have been translated into 15 languages.
At 17, Gorey enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago before entering the U.S. Army. He served during World War II from 1943 until after the end of the war—primarily at the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. In 1946 he enrolled at Harvard (majoring in French Literature) and began pursuing numerous artistic interests, publishing stories, poems, designing sets, directing and writing for the influential Poets Theatre (with John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Alison Lurie, Violet Lang and others). His work appeared for the first time in a published book in 1950.
In 1952, Gorey joined Doubleday's new imprint Doubleday Anchor in New York City and rapidly became a significant figure in their art department, designing more than fifty covers and becoming recognized as a major commercial illustrator. He then worked at Looking Glass Library and Bobs-Merrill before turning freelance in the mid-1960s
—a position he maintained for the rest of his life. Gorey began writing and illustrating his own works in 1953 with The Unstrung Harp, a 64-page novella about the creative struggles of a novelist. In 1962, he established his own private press imprint (The Fantod Press), selling many of his copies through the Gotham Book Mart with which he had a close relationship since his Army days in the early 1940s.
In 1967, Gorey had his first show at the art gallery of the Gotham Book Mart, where he would exhibit until his death. As a result of this association, Gotham Book Mart began to occasionally publish new Gorey works and eventually arranged for Gorey publications with Samuel Beckett, John Updike and others. Gorey began his theater design work in off-Broadway productions, and eventually in summertime small Cape Cod productions of his own experimental plays. In 1973 he designed a production of Dracula for a small theater on Nantucket Island; in 1977, the play opened on Broadway as Edward Gorey’s Dracula. A huge commercial success with extraordinary reviews, it won two Tony Awards (Best Revival and Best Costumes), ran for almost three years in New York and then with road companies across America, in London, Australia and elsewhere.
In 1972 he published his first of many anthologies of his work. In 1975 Gorey became involved in print making and for the next twenty-five years he explored and produced a variety of limited-edition prints.
In 1980 Gorey designed animated introductions for Boston Public Television’s Mystery! series. This collaboration with animator Derek Lamb resulted in Gorey's most iconic work. In 1983 left New York to live permanently in a house he had purchased in Yarmouth on Cape Cod. In the following years, he continued to write experimental plays, publish widely, exhibit his art, and produce commercial projects.
An advocate of animal welfare, Gorey left his estate to The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust which he established for the welfare of all living creatures. After his death in 2000 his Cape Cod home was converted into the Edward Gorey House, a museum whose profits and programs help benefit animals rights and literacy causes.