Three artists who shared a similar fate: Lily Renée, Bil Spira, and Paul Peter Porges. They all grew up in Vienna, but the Anschluss with Nazi Germany forced them to flee the city. The small (but delightful) “Three with a Pen” exhibition at the Jewish Museum explores their lives and works.
- All found success as illustrators, cartoonists or caricaturists abroad
- Showcases their drawings and illustrates their lives with documents and more artwork
- Runs May 8 – Nov 17, 2019
- Exhibition included in a normal entrance ticket to the Jewish Museum
- See also: Events in Vienna
Three lives, illustrated
When many young Jews left (fled) Vienna in the late 1930s, they took with them their creativity and intellectual strength. It was to prove Austria’s loss and the world’s gain.
Three poignant examples form the focus of an exhibition at the Judenplatz site of Vienna’s Jewish Museum:
- Lily Renée (b. 1921), who reached England aged 17 and eventually became a renowned comic artist and illustrator in New York
- Bil Spira (1913-1999), who escaped to France in his early 20s, where he put his talents to use forging documents for those seeking to flee persecution. Betrayed during the Vichy regime, he survived the concentration camps and returned to work in Paris as a caricaturist
- Paul Peter Porges (1927-2016), who made it to France and then Switzerland as a boy, later finding success in the USA drawing cartoons for the likes of Mad Magazine and the New Yorker
The exhibition, curated by Sabine Bergler and Michael Freund, and supported by Raiffeisen and Uniqua, fills three rooms.
The first room presents examples of the work of our three artists, while the second offers a short bio of each, illustrated with the help of documents and biographical artwork.
A third room presents quick biographies of seven more Jewish cartoonists and illustrators who left Vienna with the rise of the Nazis.
- I marvelled at Spira’s early caricatures from the 1930s, which use just a few strokes of black ink to build a portrait. And some of his sharp-tongued political cartoons are equally relevant today (sadly)
- Most remarkably, the exhibition includes some illustrations Spira made in the Blechhammer forced labour camp in 1944
- Renée’s broad imagination comes across in the diversity of her works, whether surrealist pen and ink drawings, costume designs or comic strip heroines. Her self-portrait with one of her husbands, Randolph G. Phillips, exudes class
- An album of photos from Renée’s short time in England acts as a subtle reminder of fate’s delicate hand. She was one of the lucky ones (even if she did not enjoy the English food). It’s also a reminder of a time when the UK offered a home to the dispossessed and needy from around the world
- There is always something resonant in seeing original artwork that becomes print. Like proof copies of Porges’ cartoons from New York, including an original proof for the New Yorker magazine
Dates and tickets
The exhibition runs from Wednesday, May 8th to Sunday, November 17th, 2019. Opening times are Sunday to Friday, 10 am to 6 pm (2 pm on Fridays), with the museum closed on selected Jewish holidays.
You just need an ordinary entrance ticket for the Jewish Museum to see the exhibition.
All display information is in both English and German.
How to get to the exhibition
The Judenplatz site of the Jewish Museum, home to Vienna’s holocaust memorial, sits right in the historic centre of the city.
Subway: the museum is surrounded by a triangle of subway stations just a short walk away – Schottentor (U2 line), Herrengasse (U3 line) and Stephansplatz (U1 and U3 lines)
Trams/bus: no trams go through the centre, just around it. But bus lines 1A and 3A stop nearby (at, for example, Schwertgasse)
Address: Judenplatz 8, 1010 Vienna