Richard Erdoes (1912–2008) was an artist, photographer, illustrator and author. He described himself as "equal parts Austrian, Hungarian and German, as well as equal parts Catholic, Protestant and Jew..."
Erdoes was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to Maria Josefa Schrom on July 7, 1912. His father, Richárd Erdős Sr., was a Jewish Hungarian opera singer who had died a few weeks earlier in Budapest on 9 June 1912. 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 a student at the Berlin Academy of Art in 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power. 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. Back in Vienna, he continued his training at the Kunstgewerbeschule, now the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. He also wrote and illustrated children's books and worked as a caricaturist for Tag and Stunde, anti-Nazi newspapers. After the Anschluss of Austria in 1938, he fled again, first to Paris, where he studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, and then London, England before journeying to the United States. He married his first wife, fellow artist Elsie Schulhof (d. xxxx) in London, shortly before their arrival in New York City.
In New York City, Erdoes enjoyed a long career as a commercial artist, and was known for his highly detailed, whimsical drawings. He created illustrations for such magazines as Stage, Fortune, Pageant, Gourmet, Harper's Bazaar, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Time, National Geographic and Life Magazine, where he met his second wife, Jean Sternbergh (d. 1995) who was an art director there. The couple married in 1951 and had three children. Erdoes also illustrated many children's books.
An assignment for Life 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 Civil Rights Movement that was raging at the time. He wrote histories, collections of Native American stories and myths, and wrote about such voices of the Native American Renaissance as Leonard and Mary Crow Dog and John Fire Lame Deer. The Erdoes' New York City apartment was a well-known hub of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the early 1970s and he became involved in the legal defense of several AIM members. In 1975 the family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where Erdoes continued to write and remained active in the movement for Native American civil rights.
His papers are preserved at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.