Born on February 25th, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois, Edward St. John Gorey learned to read at an early age, devouring Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, and the novels of Victor Hugo by the time he was eight. He took his only formal art training at the Chicago Art Institute in 1943, moving on to Harvard, from which he graduated in 1950 with a major in French. His classmates remember him as an exceedingly odd fellow.
He worked in the art department of Anchor Books (Doubleday), drawing book covers from 1953 until 1960. Gorey was an editor and art director for Random House’s Looking Glass Library for the next three years. He did some work for Bobbs-Merrill in 1963, but eventually became a full-time illustrator.
A well-known sight in New York, he often wore a raccoon coat. For over thirty years, Gorey attended every performance and most of the rehearsals of George Balanchine’s ballets for the New York City Ballet. He moved out to Cape Cod after Balanchine died, finding no further culture in the City.
In 1998, he told the Boston Globe, “I wanted to have my own bookstore until I worked in one. Then I thought I’d be a librarian until I met some crazy ones. I hoped to get into publishing, but at 28, my parents were still helping me out. Which wasn’t good at all.”
Instead he was an illustrator and author, his macabre drawings gracing many a book for other authors, as well as his own, books such as Amphigorey and Cautionary Tales. He’s well-known for his drawings which grace PBS’ “Mystery” series and his book covers and illustrations for Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase and her Dido Twite books.
Mr. Gorey died on April 15, 2000 in Massachusetts.