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Lejaren Hiller was born John Arthur Hiller on July 3, 1880 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was John W. Hiller and his mother was Amelia Hiller. His parents were both children of German immigrants. He was the oldest of four sons. His family lived at 2731 State Street. His father was an assistant register at the Milwaukee County Court.

He finished high school in 1899 and worked as an apprentice at a local design shop. In 1902 he studied industrial design and advertising at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1906 he moved to New York City and opened an art studio at 23 West 31st Street. That same year he changed his name to "Lejaren à Hiller." His friends called him "Larry."

In 1910 he illustrated "The Rules Of The Game" by Stewart White for Doubleday and Company.

In 1910 his first pulp magazine cover painting was published on the July issue of The Cavalier from Munsey Publications. In 1911 his work appeared on the cover of the pulp magazine Short Stories from Doubleday.

Hiller sold interior story illustrations to Pearson's, Collier's, Nash's, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and The Saturday Evening Post. He also created several cover illustrations for the popular humor magazine, Life. The free-lance talents who worked for Life included famous artists, authors, playwrights, reporters, and cartoonists. They got together to form a club where members could meet for lunch, but everyone had to pay their own bill, so they called themselves the "Dutch Treat Club." The members also produced an annual yearbook to document their camaraderie. Hiller belonged to the Dutch Treat Club and often contributed to their annual yearbook.

He also became an active member of the New York Society of Illustrators. He was instrumental in organizing that club's annual costume ball. As a creative outgrowth of staging and photographing this club's theatrical pageants, Hiller became fascinated with composing passion plays and using photography to document them. He was soon regarded as the "creator of American photographic illustration."

By 1921 his innovative use of photography inspired him to create several artistic motion pictures, such as The Beggar Maid, which he directed for Tri-Art Picture Company of Red Bank, NJ. According to The New York Times, "This silent movie, starring Reginald Denny and Mary Astor, is based on a painting by the famous Sir Edward Cole Burne-Jones. The compositions are beautiful - some scenes were shot in Louis Comfort Tiffany's country home - but the piece is very static."

Hiller married in 1922. His son, Lejaren Hiller, Jr., was born in 1924. His son grew up to become an avant-garde composer, who collaborator with John Cage (1912-1992) and created some of the first computer-generated music.

In 1926 Lejaren à Hiller produced his most elaborate series of theatrical tableaux illustrating the history of Surgery Through The Ages. This was an advertising campaign for the medical manufacturer, Davis & Geck Co., which published it as a deluxe folio in 1927.

From 1924 until 1939 Lejaren à Hiller sold hundreds of freelance pulp covers to Flynn's Weekly, also known as Detective Fiction Weekly. This was his longest relationship with a pulp magazine, and it began with the cover of the very first issue. These illustrations were actually enlarged black and white photographs that he re-touched with transparent oil paints of his own formulation.

In 1941 Lejaren à Hiller designed the end papers for the annual yearbook of the Dutch Treat Club.

During World War II he supported the war effort by creating several photographic posters of patriotic and informative subjects.

In 1944 Hastings House published a hardcover edition of his 1927 folio, Surgery Through The Ages.

During the 1950s and 1960s he worked as a photographer of the New York Jazz music scene.

A letter to the artist from the author, Irvin Cobb, reported, "I have just received the wonderful photographs you made to illustrate my story, 'Smoke of Battle.' I don't think I ever saw anything finer done with a camera. My thanks that your genius should so splendidly have been exercised to help sell stuff that I wrote."

Lejaren Hiller died in New York City at the age of eighty-nine on May 23, 1969.

                         © David Saunders 2009

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