Emilie Irene Zimmermann was born October 15, 1907 in New York City. Her father, Frederick Charles Zimmermann, was born in 1866 in Mereny, Hungary, and came to the United States with his family in 1895. Her mother, Emilie S. Endris, was born 1870 in NYC of German and Swiss ancestry. Her parents married in Brooklyn on April 21, 1900 and had two children. Her older sister Nathalie M. Zimmermann was born in 1905. They lived in the home of her paternal grandparents at 1197 Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn. Her father's family owned and operated a Hungarian restaurant. Her widowed uncle Samuel Zimmermann also worked at the family restaurant and lived at the same home along with his daughter Gladys who was born in 1904.
On October 4, 1915 her paternal grandmother Susanna Zimmermann died at home at the age of seventy-eight.
Three months later on January 1, 1916 her paternal grandfather Frederick Zimmermann also died at home at the age of eighty-three.
After the settlement of the family estate her Uncle Samuel and his daughter Gladys remained in the family home at 1197 Rogers Avenue, while she and her parents and sister moved to 115 Saint Marks Avenue in Brooklyn.
In 1917 her big sister Nathalie joined the Puzzle Club and the Humane Club of their local newspaper, which published her name as a "Lucky Puzzle Solver."
On September 12, 1918 her father reported for draft registration during the Great War, He was fifty-one and supported a wife and two children, so he was not selected for military service.
On August 15, 1921 her big sister Nathalie died at the age of fifteen at the family home. She was buried in the Endris family plot at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.
Less than one year later on June 8, 1922 her heartbroken father Frederick C. Zimmermann died at the age of sixty-six. She and her widowed mother moved to a more affordable apartment at 1337 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, where her mother worked from home as a dressmaker and took in a boarder to earn extra income.
At that same time Irene Zimmermann wrote to the same local newspaper to request her own official membership in the Puzzle Club.
In June of 1923 she completed the tenth grade of high school and then entered the work force as a clerical worker in an office.
The mid-1920s would have been a likely time for her to attend weekend or evening art classes at some art school in NYC, but no such enrollment records have been located.
By 1928 her mother's fifty-two-year-old unwed younger sister Edith Endris moved to live with them.
By 1929 Irene Zimmerman was twenty-two and earning income as a professional commercial artist. She illustrated hardcover dust-jackets for Grosset & Dunlap. She sold several cover paintings to The Golden Book Magazine, a literary monthly with short stories and serialized novels. Her illustrations for The Gold Book Magazine were influenced by the popular fashion style of Art Deco. She signed these works "Irenë Zimmerman" with an umlaut above the final "e" in her first name and without the second "n" in her last name.
On November 13, 1931 her Uncle Samuel died. His daughter Gladys had already married and moved away from home, so Irene and her mother and Aunt Edith Endris moved back into her paternal grandparents home where she had been raised at 1197 Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn.
During the 1930s the Great Depression brought hard times and social upheaval, which devastated the advertising industry of mainstream publishing. At that same time the pulp magazine industry enjoyed its most prosperous period by selling cheap thrills to the masses for pocket change at newsstands and with no dependence on advertising.
In 1932 Irene Zimmermann began to draw pen and ink interior illustrations for spicy pulp magazines that were published by Harry Donenfeld, such as La Paree and Pep Stories. She appeared in these titillating magazines along with Raymond A. Burley, Oscar Greiner, H. J. Ward, and Earle Bergey. She signed this work with her professional name "Irenë Zimmerman" rather than an alias. This suggests she had more interest in promoting her name than in protecting her reputation.
In 1934 she sold two cover illustrations to Liberty Magazine. These assignments were the most prestigious of her career, since Liberty Magazine enjoyed a circulation that was second only to The Saturday Evening Post at that time. She signed this work with a slightly different version of her name. "Irenë Zimerman" with an umlaut above the final "e" in her first name and without the second "m" or the second "n" in her last name.
After these Liberty Magazine assignments she continued to draw sexy illustrations for the spicy pulp magazine La Paree, which appeared in 1934 and 1935, however she began to sign this work with a more discrete signature composed of only her first name "Irene." Although this is not an alias it may reflect some concern about preserving the reputation of her full professional name for more lucrative assignments.
On March 9, 1939 her Aunt Edith Endris died at the age of sixty-three in Brooklyn. She was buried in the Endris family plot in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.
In 1940 Irene Zimmerman was thirty two years old, single, and was still listed as a "commercial artist." She never married and she had no children. She was living with her elderly and retired mother.
During World War II most of the top magazine illustrators were drafted for military service. As the demand grew for more replacement talent new employment opportunities for women opened up. This social phenomenon popularized a wider social approval of "Rosie the Riveter."
Irene Zimmermann began to provide illustrations for pulp romance magazines, a genre in which several women artists had previously established careers, such as Dorothy Flack, Xena Wright, and Constance Benson Bailey. In fact when male artists contributed work to romance pulps it was common practice to use feminine pen names, such as Charles Warde Traver, who signed his work "Martha Traver" and Ehler Dahl, who became "Truda Dahl."
As the significance of her career in pulp magazine increased during WWII she began to use an alias in order to protect the reputation of her professional name "Irenë Zimerman" in hopes of receiving additional higher paying assignments from Liberty Magazine. This was the strategy of several other artists, such as Ernest Chiriacka, who worked for the pulp under the alias "Darcy Acka," and John Striebel, who used the pen name "William Streib." Irene Zimmermann began to sign her work for pulp magazines with a pen name composed of her first name and her mother's maiden name, "Irene Endris."
The August 1942 issue of Sweetheart Stories has illustrations signed "Irene Endris."
A big break for her pulp reputation came in the August 1942 issue of the magazine Rangeland Romances, which introduced the new series, entitled, "My Greatest Moment by Irene Endris." According to the introductory paragraph, "Somewhere, laid carefully away among the cherished memories of every girl, is her life's one big moment. Irene Endris, gifted young artist, has been retained by Rangeland Romances to illustrate those moments in the lives of its readers. Send us a brief account of your big moment today. Perhaps in the next issue yours may appear on this page!" The series continued for five months during the remainder of 1942, but did not continue into 1943.
From 1945 to 1947 Irene Zimmermann painted eleven covers for detective mystery pulp magazines. Her work appeared on Speed Detective, Crack Detective and Ten Detective Aces. For this hard boiled genre Irene Zimmermann adopted a style of work that was strongly influenced by Rafael M. DeSoto, whose reputation was larger based on work of this genre. She again signed these illustrations with the pen name "Irene Endris." Although she may have wanted to protect her reputation while earning extra income by painting a few covers for detective pulp magazines, the sinister quality of the subject matter and the enigma of the name "Irene Endris" have combined to make these sensational paintings some of the artist's most renowned creations.
On St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 1957, her mother, Emilie Zimmermann, died in Brooklyn's Kings County Hospital at the age of eighty-seven.
For most of her life Irene Zimmermann had lived in the home of her paternal grandparents. At first in the early years of her childhood the home had flourished with ten Zimmermann family members, but by the end of her life she was the last survivor of her family living at 1197 Rogers Avenue, where she maintained a professional listing in the Brooklyn telephone directory. After her mother died Irene Zimmermann decided she did not want to spend her final years alone in the big house, so she sold it and moved to a modern apartment building at 135 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Rental ads for apartments in the building mentioned a 24-hour doorman, air-conditioning, a television set in the lobby, and "over forty lawyers live in the building, which speaks for itself."
Irene Zimmermann died at home in her modern apartment on September 4, 1967 at the age of fifty-nine. She is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn beside her big sister Nathalie, jer mother and her Aunt Edith Endris in the family plot, of which she is listed as the "sole heir."
Please see the related profile of Irene Endris also located on this website.
© David Saunders 2013