Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Happy 99th Birthday Lily Renée

"‘Señorita Rio in Horror's Hacienda’ from the cover of Fight Comics #47, (December 1946) by Austrian-American artist, writer, and playwright Lily Renée (b.1921)

"Renée, who turns 99 today, is known for being one of the earliest women in comics. Born in Austria in 1921, she came from a wealthy Viennese Jewish family who had a strong appreciation for art and culture. When the annexation of Austria happened in March 1938, Renée was forced out of school and her parents then two long years trying to get her out of the country.

"Eventually, aged 14, she moved to England where she lived for two years working as a servant, nanny and hospital volunteer. All the while, she waited for her parents to also make their escape. In 1937 she got word that they finally had – they had sold two of their properties to the Nazis and were now living in Manhattan. As soon as Renée could, she quit her work and moved across the Atlantic to be with them.

"There, she studied at the Art Students League of New York and later at the School of Visual Arts. Following an ad that her mother saw in the paper, she landed a role at the comic-book publisher Fiction House. The war had meant that many male artists had been shipped overseas, and so this opened up many new opportunities that women would not have originally been allowed. At Fiction she was initially hired on a trial basis but, after a year-and-a-half, she was producing covers.

"She quickly became the publisher's star artist and became one of the big names during the Golden Age of Comics. Some of her best-known work includes illustrations for ‘Jane Martin‘, ‘Werewolf Hunter‘, ‘The Lost World‘ and ‘Senorita Rio‘ (seen here). Despite her success and popularity, Renée dropped out of the world of comics after 5 years at Fiction. This was partly to do with how comics were perceived at the time, but also because she had other interests to pursue.

"She went on to raise a family, write a play, study philosophy and English literature and write and illustrate children's books. In 2007 she attended Comic-Con and, in 2011, a graphic biography about her was published by Graphic Universe. She still lives in Manhattan."
-- via Illustration Chronicles

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