To many peoples' surprise, Charles Addams' (1912-1988) 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. 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, MA, 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.



[Cartoon from The New Yorker; ink and watercolor on grisaille, 12.5 x 12.25", ca. 1938]