circa 1950-1963. Archive of Essayist and Caricaturist Emery Kelen, circa 1950-1963
Approximately 600 pp., with about 60 original drawings. Drafts, proofs, correspondence, sketches, notes, and newspaper clippings. Very good condition overall: some fading and toning to mimeographed pages, a bit of edge wear and a few small stains.
Emery Kelen was born in Györ, Hungary in 1896. He attended art school in Vienna, but at the age of 19, with the onset of World War I, was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army. He contracted typhus while on the battlefield, recovered and was sent back to the front lines, but overwhelmed by his war experience, was sent to a military hospital for the insane in Nagyzombat, Hungary. There he cut his teeth on caricature, sketching portraits of the patients.
Kelen is best known for his collaborations with Alois Derso; during the 1920s and 1930s, Kelen and Derso worked in Europe, drawing caricatures and satirical cartoons of famous diplomats and statesmen. They were the dedicated pictorial reporters of League of Nations meetings, and their work was published widely in the European press. Kelen and Derso, who were both Jewish (and had publicly criticized Hitler’s rise to power), were aided in departing Europe in December 1938. They settled in New York City, and their political cartoons were syndicated and published in major U.S. newspapers and magazines until they parted ways in the late 1940s. From 1948 to 1956, Kelen worked for the Office of Public Information at the United Nations as its first television director and producer. He published a number of books on a wide range of topics, from a humorous commentary on world politics to a biography of Dag Hammarskjöld, as well as numerous children's books.
This collection documents Kelen’s later work, in the 1950s and 1960s, as a caricaturist, essayist and, with his wife Betty, aspiring magazine feature author. There are drafts, sketches, original drawings and notes for his “Written in His Face” column, which was widely printed in European newspapers. Over 40 different subjects are covered, including Adlai Stevenson (“the original egghead”), Fidel Castro, Elvis Presley, John Foster Dulles (“owl-faced and lionhearted”), Salvador Dali, Mao Tse-Tung, and David Ben Gurion. Kelen wrote with a keen attention to detail and a quick wit. Consider the following samples from the work found in this collection:
“I suspect that the Cuban revolutionaries grew beards to look fierce, and that the fashion was started by their leader, Fidel Castro, who without a beard would not have looked fiercer than a baked apple.”
“[Elvis Presley] has an asymmetric face…the main culprit responsible for this asymmetry is an upper jaw which is not only lopsided, but sunken in the mid-face; so that it slants the eyes, pulls the nosewings deep into the face, and throws the upper lip upward and outward. You often see this feature in children, because in the child’s face, the upper jaw is not yet developed. In Elvis’ case, it is a positive sign of the childishness which is an element of his personality.”
“It is a combination of muscularity and leanness which produces the stiff, wiry little [Harry S.] Truman we know, with the mechanical gait, the abrupt delivery of speech, and the few, but repetitious gestures…Truman will go down in history as the President who made certain momentous decisions: the dropping of the first atom bomb, the Korean War, the Marshall Plan. Nobody ever called him a sissy. And yet, I see Truman as a scared country boy. His eyebrows have a tendency to take an oblique dance that lends to his vigilant eyes the expression of fear. When he smiles, the corners of his mouth do not turn up, but down, like those of a crying child.”
This collection also holds about 200 pp. of proofs and drafts for a magazine feature written by Betty and Emery Kelen entitled “Your Character is Showing.” Describing their venture (“an intelligent guide for judging people by their appearance”), the Kelens wrote: “The feature’s purpose is to show the reader how to appraise personality by those outward signs which we all notice, and intuitively attach importance to: hands, noses, eyebrows, jaws, and other features of the general body build...While not written solely for women, the feature is slanted towards women, and is suitable for women’s pages in newspapers or magazines. The author believes that women have an innate aptitude for judging the characters of others.” They listed dozens of possible topics for the feature, drafts and samples for some of which are found in the collection including “Do people resemble their dogs?,” “the poker face,” “pudgy hands” (“have you ever noticed what dainty hands many fat people have?”) and “lisping and personality.”
Other materials found here include proofs for a series of pamphlets/lecture series on Kelen’s “Personality Evaluation Method,” extended features on Charles De Gaulle and Nikita Khrushchev, and a draft of a children’s story, “The Island of the Giant Coconuts.” There are about 25 clippings from American and foreign newspapers showing Kelen’s work in the 1950s- and two-color self-caricatures from the early 1960s, one of which is framed. There are a few pieces of correspondence between Kelen and an agent, George A. Blessing, concerning a book venture, “How to Judge People.” Blessing wrote, “Emery, if this thing doesn’t sell I’ll be very surprised. Normally I don’t have much confidence until I see the returns, but I’ve talked to an awful lot of people about this service, and everybody seems to be intrigued by it. Let’s both hope that it works.” There are proofs for magazine advertisements for the book as well as a few letters in Hungarian.
A rare collection of original drawings and drafts by this accomplished caricaturist and writer. Princeton University holds a collection of Derso and Kelen materials, and Kelen’s published work is widely held, but no unpublished holdings work similar to this collection were found in OCLC or online. Item #394