Blonde Beer Girl by Jules Erbit
This is an original pastel illustration by Hungarian-American artist and illustrator Jules Erbit. Known for his calendar art and female figure illustrations, this is a classic portrait from the artist dating to the height of his career.
A stylish blonde looks back over her shoulder and gives a flirtatious smirk as she holds up a pilsner of beer. This was published in the form of an advertising poster for Breidt’s Beer and Ales. One the many small breweries once located around Newark, NJ, the Peter Breidt Brewing Co. closed its doors in 1951. This has cross-collectible breweriana appeal.
The pastel is signed by the artist in the lower right corner of the image. It is framed behind glass in a gold painted wood frame. The pastel does show a small amount of soiling and smudging.
This illustration comes from the collection of esteemed illustration art collector Norman Platnick.
About the artist: Jules Erbit
Little is known about Erbit’s life, and some of the information that is readily available is not accurate. Unlike some of his contemporaries, such as Rolf Armstrong and Zoe Mozert, whose careers also transitioned, over the years, from deco-style work to a pinup style approach, Erbit seems to have shunned publicity; his name seldom appeared in newspapers. He was born in Budapest, Hungary, on April 5, 1889, as Gyula Erbits; his younger brother, Jeno, joined the family five years later. His studies at the Budapest Academy of Art began in 1902, when he was only 13; after graduating, he won government support to continue his studies in Munich, Germany. Upon returning to Budapest in 1910, he joined the studio of a well-known sculptor, George Zala, and his attention focused on sculptures and statues. Later in his career, he returned to sculpture at least once, producing pieces that were marketed as bookends.
After the chaos of World War I, the Communist party briefly took control of the Hungarian government, attempting to expel the Czech occupation. During this period, Erbit apparently designed posters in support of this effort. That army was defeated in short order; like many of the communist leaders, Erbit fled the country, emigrating to Paris, where he continued his art studies.
According to Martignette and Meisel’s The Great American Pin-Up, Erbit “came to the United States in 1930,” but this seems unlikely, as his works began appearing on U.S. pulp magazine covers as early as 1923, using the Anglicized version of his name. David Saunder’s biography on pulpartists.com indicates that Jules and his younger brother (who took the Anglicized name Gene Erbit) arrived in New York in 1921, staying initially with a cousin in New York City. Gene subsequently developed a successful career as a photographer. His photographs were sometimes used by the same calendar companies that published Jules’ images, and those photographs have sometimes been misidentified as works by Jules.
On October 6, 1924, Jules married Lenke Gabick in Manhattan. Their daughter Nancy Jean was born on February 13, 1926. The following year, Jules and Gene together leased a studio on West 58th Street in Manhattan. In 1928, Jules renounced his Hungarian citizenship and became a U.S. citizen. Jules developed an association with the American Artists Company, a Manhattan-based firm that brokered images from many illustrators (including, for example, Haskell Coffin) to the publishers of magazines as well as to the calendar companies.
Lenke passed away on January 23, 1939; in the 1940 census, Jules and Nancy are listed as living together in New York. After World War II, they moved to southern California, though he does not seem to have been as successful there at finding work painting for the Hollywood studios as were his contemporaries Rolf Armstrong and Zoe Mozert, among others; Nancy entered Stanford University and in 1948 was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society there. In 1946, Jules got remarried, to Alice de Soos, and by 1957 the couple moved to Carmel, CA. During the 1950’s, with calendar commissions declining, he shifted his emphasis to producing private portraits; in 1951, an exhibition at the Hollywood Art Center featured his portraits. He even pursued work in an unexpected area, designing Christmas cards for several California companies. Some of these cards were executed together with Alice, as his eyesight was weakening. He suffered a heart attack at home, and passed away on December 10, 1968, at the age of 79.
Biography courtesy of Lovely to Look At: A Collector’s Guide to Jules Erbit by Norman I. Platnick
The Legacy of Norman Platnick
In his New York Times obituary, Norman Platnick’s son Will said that his father had three passions in life, his wife Nancy, spiders, and collecting.
Few individuals have the chance to leave a mark like Norm’s in even one field, let alone two. But Norm managed to be both a celebrated scientist, and one of the most influential lay historians of illustration art.
Under his imprint Enchantment Ink, Norm researched, wrote, and published collectors guides to artists like Rolf Armstrong and Earl Christy. We at Grapefruit Moon Gallery rely on these books in our work, and they are now all freely available as PDFs through the Enchantment Ink website.
Norm’s expertise was a gift, his friendship was a treasure, and his legacy is immeasurable. He is missed.