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 Charles Samuel Addams  (1912 - 1988)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey      Known for: cartoonist-droll gothic

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Ad Code: 3
Charles Samuel Addams
from Auction House Records.
Sad Movie, New Yorker magazine cartoon illustration
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Charles Addams was best known for his macabre cartoons that appeared in "The New Yorker", for whom he also did the occasional cover. His Addams Family cartoons were the basis for a hit TV series and two successful feature films.

Addams was a mild mannered man with a wicked but gentle mind. The following is from the 1954 dust jacket notes on "Homebodies":

"Charles Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey, forty-one years ago and attended Colgate University, The University of Pennsylvania, and Grand Central School of Art in New York City. His work, almost in its entirety, has been published in "The New Yorker" for the last twenty-two years and has resulted in three previous books: "Drawn and Quartered", "Addams and Evil", and "Monster Rally".

He works mostly in New York City in what looks like an unsuccessful private eye's office. Practically nothing is accomplished in his house at Westhampton Beach on Long Island. He has owned a series of sports cars and collects medieval crossbows.
Addams daydreams almost constantly and, in his own view, is "generally quite lazy."

In addition to those listed above, his most famous books would have to include:

Black Maria ("muh rye uh" - the nickname for the police paddy wagon shown on the dj), Favorite Haunts, The Groaning Board, Nightcrawlers, Creature Comforts, The Charles Addams Mother Goose, the scarce Dear Dead Days, and Afternoon in the Attic, the dj of which provided the photograph above.


Written 1997 by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., Palo Alto, CA, Bud Plant Illustrated Books,
To the surprise of many people, Charles Addams' mother did not give birth to him in a dilapidated house along a deserted highway. Nor did he have a pet alligator that was a scourge to the neighborhood's poodles. In fact, he grew up in the almost generic suburban community of Westfield, New Jersey, but as a child, he yearningly scribbled pictures of the more exciting realm of knights and their castles.

He was known however, to sometimes wander in the local graveyard,and did play in a nearby Victorian house that would one day become the model for the Addams' family home. However, somewhat sadly to fans, the predilection for morbidity apparent in much of his work was not the result of childhood mishaps.

After graduating from high school, Addams began studying at Colgate University in 1929. Dissatisfied, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania after a year, resolutely deciding the life of the academic was not for him. Apparently though it was schooling that was not for him, as he dropped out of the Grand Central School of Art in New York City after only a year.

In 1935, the "New Yorker" signed him on as a regular cartoonist. Living on the modest thirty-five dollars per cartoon the "New Yorker" paid, Addams developed a sophisticated style of humor. His macabre wit could make his audience laugh at the truly grotesque and sometimes appalling. Some of his most popular characters were even spun off into a popular television series the "Addams Family." His books of collected cartoons were best sellers.

Exhibitions of his work have been mounted at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Museum of the City of New York. Having hosted a retrospective in 1994, the New York Public Library continues to show a small rotating group of his works. Addams has also been honored with the Yale Humor Award (1954) and a special award from the Mystery Writers of America. In his spare time he enjoyed collecting vintage automobiles and ironically, he died behind the wheel in 1988.

Stephen Becker, "Comic Art in America"

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