Gallery Artists > Ernest Chiracka Biography :

Ernest Chiracka (1913 - 2010)  Artworks >>

If the name Ernest Chiriacka (1913-2010) isn't familiar to you as a leading Western artist, there's reason for that. It isn't that he wasn't trained at the best art schools in America, for he studied at the venerable Art Students League and at the equally prestigious National Academy of Design. For four years he studied under Harvey Dunn, a protégé of Howard Pyle, at the Grand Central School of Art. As a young lad Chiriacka would draw with anything he could find, charcoal from the fire, pieces of sheet rock that he could use like chalk on sidewalks. By the time he was a teenager he was known as the "Rembrandt of Third Avenue." With a natural talent for drawing, Chiriacka would go on to have great financial successes with his abilities to draw and paint. After his death in 2010, a resurgence of interest has piqued for his fine art, in part, due to the accessibility that collectors now have to his estate. For the first time in 27 years, daughter Athene Westergaard has unveiled paintings and illustrations of her father's life, showing them in Santa Fe. It's almost as if with his death, Ernest Chiriacka was born once more into the art world he loved. Born Anastassios Kyriakakos in New York City on May 11, 1913, a son of Greek immigrants, Ernest Chiriacka is the transliterated English equivalent of Anastassios Kyriakakos. The familiar form of the name Anastassios is "Tassi," which sounds like the English name "Darcy" which he was called by friends and family. His life could well be told today in a dramatic PBS program, something like Downton Abbey, having lived through the Great Depression and World War II. If it were the 1930's it could well be romanticized in a series of pulp fiction novels with seductive covers suggesting intrigue and mystery. Or if we lived in the 1950's his life could become a popular series in any of America's popular magazines of the time; Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Esquire, or Argosy. Except, Ernest Chiriacka, the artist, was creating his life during the 1930's by painting pulp fiction covers under assumed names, a cloak and dagger act to hide his identity until he could break into the big time of "slicks" — American's glossy family oriented magazines. In the America of the 1940's and 50's, illustrators were in high demand to fuel the fantasies of readers who lived from month to month clinging to the latest adventure of their hero portrayed on glossy paper in the "slicks". Paintings of live action adventurers popped off the pages and into the imaginations of readers, who were not yet inundated with television. Ernest Chiriacka created many of these scenes, working day and night to supply a multitude of magazines that printed his paintings on their pages — Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Esquire, Argosy and more. Having attained his dream to move from painting for pulp novels to illustrating slicks, Chiriacka once again used his guile, painting under different names, this time due to non-compete clauses with publishers. While it proved to be a pathway to success for selling his illustrations, it was, at the same time, as if he were shooting himself in the foot. Although he desired to have a recognized name like Norman Rockwell, Chiriacka, in fact, had too many names. His style of his work was highly sought after. He painted with what author David Saunders, who interviewed Chiriacka at his New York estate before his death in 2010 described as "…a handsome style of abbreviated realism to create convincing illusions…this style was perfected by John Singer Sargeant, who premixed each stroke from his infinitely malleable colors of oil paints, while Chiriacka simply used flat colors from jars of tempera paints but he locked those planes into a suggested depth by the bravura of his drawing strength." Chiriacka became highly popular in the early fifties when he was asked to paint two pin-ups for Esquire. H

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