Anastassios Kyriakakos was born to Greek immigrant parents in New York City May 11th, 1913. Adopting the more American name of Ernest Chiriaka, he was raised in the ghetto of the Lower East Side. One cannot conceivably imagine the hardships young Ernest must have faced as his father struggled to find work and his mother sacrificed to raise he and his five siblings. Out of humble beginnings and intense suffering came one of the most talented American noir artists of our time.
Liberty Magazine was the first to purchase cover art from Ernest (known as a “slick”) in July of 1950. Sadly, the magazine suddenly closed their doors before Ernest’s August cover hit newsstands. Said Ernest,
“I thought, ‘Hey, Holy Cow! I’m on the cover of Liberty! That’s great news.’ And they folded, right then and there, with my cover. It never came out! Gr-r-r! That was a dirty deal! My first slick, and it folds up!”
Chiriaka’s first real success didn’t arrive until 1952, when he was commissioned to paint two pin-ups for the Esquire calender. He apparently made waves with his work, because the following year he was asked to paint all twelve lovely ladies. He continued working for magazines and pulp publishers (doing book covers) for many years afterward.
Ernest Chiriaka died on April 27th, 2010 at the age of 96. His noir art stands as a pillar in the genre.
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