Julius "Jules" Erbit was an ethnic Magyar born Gyula von Zombori Erbits on April 5, 1889 in Budapest, Hungary. His father was Otto Erbits. His mother's maiden name was Fellner. His younger brother Jeno was born five years later. The family lived at 28 Felsoerdosor Street.
In 1902 at the age of thirteen he began to study at the Budapest Academy of Art. After graduation he was awarded a government grant to continue his studies in Munich at another art academy.
In 1910 he returned to Budapest and entered the atelier workshop studio of the sculptor George Zala and worked on a number of public statues in the parks of Budapest. He sculpted a portrait bust of King Charles IV, the last Habsburg King of Hungary.
In 1914 Austria-Hungary entered the World War allied with Germany and the nation was eventually devastated by four years of war.
During the chaotic year of 1919 the Communists took over the Hungarian government and organized an army to repel the occupying Czechoslovakian Army. Erbits designed propaganda and recruitment posters for the Communist minister of Culture, Bela Lugosi. One such poster read, "Don't Let Us Down! Stand With Us! Join The Red Army!" . Their army was soon defeated on the battlefield and the Communist regime collapsed and its leaders fled Budapest. They were replaced by a military leader, who was elected Regent in January 1920. Erbits fled to Paris where he studied at an art school.
In 1921 he and his younger brother, Jeno (Eugene, Gene), emigrated to the U.S.A. They arrived in New York City on the S.S. Carmania from Hamburg, Germany on September 4. At first they stayed with a cousin, Anton Gablik, in his apartment at 70 West 45th Street.
In 1924 he and his brother moved to 145 West 45th Street in the section of Manhattan known as Hell's Kitchen. During the summer of 1924 he returned to Budapest, where he married his wife, Lenke Erbit, who was born in Hungary on November 25, 1894. They returned to NYC in October.
By 1926 they had moved to 11 Ridgeview Avenue in White Plains, NY, where their daughter Nancy was born on February 12.
In 1927 he and his brother leased a commerical space at 138 West 58th Street, where he set up an art studio and specialized in pastel portraits. His brother was a photographer of romantic and sentimental subjects for advertsing. His brother's work appeared on calendars and jig-saw puzzles published by the A. M. Walzer Co., the Louis F. Dow Calendar Co,. the Picture Perfect Puzzle Co., and Universal Images Co.
Julius Erbit created a few covers for pulp magazines, such as War Stories, which was published by Dell, but he soon made a name for himself as a pastel artist of glamourous women.
On February 21, 1928 he renounced his Hungarian citizenship. He visited his homeland with his wife and two-year-old daughter during the summer and returned to NYC on the S. S. Paris from Le Havre, France on September 12, 1928.
On November 19, 1928 he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
He created pastel cover art of pretty girls for magazines, such as The Farmer's Wife, Holland's Magazine and This Week Magazine. He also did covers for The New Movie Magazine and The Illustrated Love Magazine, which were published by Tower Magazines Inc. for exclusive distribution at Woolworth Five-and-Dime stores. The pulp artist, Elmer Stoner, also worked for that unique publishing company.
By 1934 he lived at 2178 Broadway. His younger brother was still living with the family. During the late summer the entire family visited Europe and later returned on the S.S. Washington on October 18.
In 1935 the entire family moved to 222 West 70th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
During the summer of 1936 he, his wife, and his ten-year-old daughter again visited relatives in Hungary. They later returned on the S.S. Columbus from Bremen, Germany, and arrived back in NYC on September 2.
He worked for the American Artists Company at 67 West 44th Street in Manhattan. His pastel pin-ups appeared on calendars published by C. Moss, Brown & Bigelow, and Gerlach Barklow.
On September 24, 1941 he moved into a newly leased space at 80 West 40th Street, where he lived and worked. He is no longer listed as living with his wife and daughter.
On July 28, 1942 he reported for draft registration with the Selective Service. This was required by law even though he was fifty-four years old. He was recorded to be 5'-10", 180 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion.
After WWII he moved to Santa Barbara, California to follow the successful careers of other pin-up artists who were making it big in Hollywoood, such as Rolf Armstrong and Zoe Mozert, both of whom also created soft pastel portraits of beautiful women for advertising, calendars, and movie posters.
In 1946 he married his second wife, Alice de Soos, in Santa Barbara, CA. In 1957 they moved to Carmel, CA, and lived on Ocean Avenue and Carmelo Street.
His work was shown in several local exhibitions and Catholic venues, but his eyesight worsened until he was no longer able to work.
At the age of seventy-nine Julius Erbit suffered a heart attack at home in Carmel, CA. He was taken to the Community Hospital, where he died that night at 8pm, on December 10, 1968.
© David Saunders 2009