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Richard Erdoes Illustrating his way around the world.

September 2, 2013

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As this post is an extra, extra long one, I’ll post again towards the end of this busy week, enjoy Richard’s work.

Richard Erdoes was born in Vienna, Austria in 1912.  His father, Richárd Erdős Sr, was a Jewish Hungarian opera singer who had died a few weeks earlier in Frankfurt. After his birth, his mother lived with her sister, the Viennese actress Leopoldine (“Poldi”) Sangora and Erdoes grew up traveling with them from one engagement to another in Germany and Austria. He was involved in a small underground paper where he published anti-Hitler political cartoons which attracted the attention of the Nazi Regime. He fled Germany with a price on his head.  He fled to Paris and London, eventually ending up in the United States where he continued his early illustration career contributing to Life magazine, and creating three Joke books in the early 1950’s.

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He got a taste for travelling a expressing his findings in an early book.  ‘Come over to My House’ is a 1966 children’s book, illustrated by Richard Erdoes. The name “Theo. LeSieg” was a pen name of Theodor Geisel, who is more commonly known by another more familiar pen name, Dr. Seuss. The illustrations portray the various styles of homes that kids from around the world live in along with Seuss’s recognizable prose. Throughout the book they also cover what kids eat, how they sleep (Japanese wooden pillows), play (sledding on pine needles), and even clean-up afterwards (Polynesian hot spring).

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An assignment for Life Magazine in 1967 took Erdoes to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for the first time, and marked the beginning of the work for which he would be best known. Erdoes was fascinated by Native American culture, outraged at the conditions on the reservation and deeply moved by the struggle for civil rights that was raging at the time. He wrote histories, collections of Native American stories and myths, and developed profound editor/collaborator creative partnerships with such voices of the Native American Renaissance as Leonard and Mary Crow Dog and John Fire Lame Deer.

However, between 1967 and 1971, Richard had completed three amazing books concentrating on Policemen, Peddlers and Vendors and finally Musicians from around the world. It is these illustrations (with a very similar flair to those of another fav illustrator of mine Miroslav Sasek) that I wish to show you.  First come the Policemen.

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This NY street scene is fabulous, such hustle and bustle !  Next it’s the turn of the Peddlers and Vendors.

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And finally the Musicians.

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I love how he manages to characterise each countries appearance, customs and idiosyncrasies so perfectly.

As well as being a photographer, illustrating books for children, Erdoes was known for a long list of books about Native Americans including, Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions, American Indian Trickster Tales, Lakota Woman and more. Richard remarked that his father first came to Pine Ridge in 1967 for a sun dance. He said, “He always had an interest in other cultures. As a young man, before having to flee the Nazis in Europe, he traveled on foot to Yugoslavia. He was interested in how other people lived. He loved to travel on western trips and visited Pueblos and Indian reservations.” It seems that Richard was highly influenced by his father’s beliefs even though he never met him.

Richard died at his home in Santa Fe, NM in 2008 aged 96.  A huge vote of thanks to the tireless work by Ariel S. Winter who’s flickr sets always inspire and inform us all.

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