Monday, April 24, 2006

Ernest Chiriaka

I always have a link in my sidebar to Dan Zimmer's Illustration magazine, but this week I really need to highlight this great publication because Dan has kindly given me permission to except the Chiriaka article from the 8th issue of Illustration (which you can still order!) written by Norm Saunders' son, David. Many thanks to Dan and I encourage everyone to consider getting a subscription to Illustration ( especially if you have a birthday coming up soon and your wife's not sure what to get you - are you reading this, Wendy? ;-)

The following text is © 2003 David Saunders:

Ernest Chiriacka was born Anastassios Kyriakakos in New York City on May 11, 1913, and lived at 42 Madison Street on the Lower East Side. To imagine the living conditions of this ghetto at the turn of the century, look at the heart-breaking photo-essay by Jacob Riis, “How the Other Half Lives,” which revealed the astonishing hardships of children growing up in these shamefully squalid tenement buildings. His parents, Portia and Herakles Kyriakakos, had emigrated from the mountain village of Xero Cambi in the Sparta region of Greece in 1907. Herakles was an educated young man who had studied to be a Greek Orthodox abbot, but could not adjust to the harsh reality of the bustling slums of New York, where the only jobs for a non-lingual immigrant were unskilled menial labor. Although Hercules performed his 12 heroic labors, Herakles refused to lower himself to work as a dishwasher, shoeshiner, or push-cart laborer. He changed his name to “Harry Chiriacka,” but made no further effort to become an American or learn English, and he fell into the languid despair of drink. Fortunately, his wife Portia was an industrious person who raised six children, supervising their public school educations as well as their attendance in Greek school to learn their native culture and language. Anastassios was their third child. He was called “Tasso” for short, which is pronounced “dah-so,” and is transliterated as “Darcy.”


  1. Oh bah-ruh-ther!
    Okay, okay. I get the message.
    I'll be returning the new weed whacker now.

  2. Ernest Chriaka was my grandfather's brother. Many of us have pieces of his art work - I have a painting hanging on my living room wall.

  3. Hello Ernest Chiriaka was my grandfathers brother as well. My grandfather is George. My father has a few of his paintings as well.

    Peter Chiarkas