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Derso and Kelen

Derso and Kelen original cartoon artwork

Emery Kelen was born in Györ, Hungary in 1896. He met Alois Derso in 1922 in Lausanne. Sharing similar biographical backgrounds, both being Jews from Hungary and artists, they became friends and collaborators for the next 30 years – the first 20 years in Europe and the last 10 years in the United States. During the 1920s and 1930s, Kelen and Derso worked in Europe illustrating inter-war Europe with their cartoons. As witnesses to this history, they drew caricatures of famous diplomats and statesmen of the day and satirical cartoons of their activities. They were also the dedicated pictorial reporters of the meetings and delegates of the League of Nations. As active members of the international press corps, their work was eagerly sought after providing a humorous daily record of events at a time when cameras were not allowed in the conference rooms. Their work was published widely in the European press. Kelen and Derso departed Europe on 13 December 1938 aided by friends who recognised the impending dangers facing them due to both being Jewish and their past public criticism of Hitler’s rise to power.