Shaw, Elizabeth (1920–1992)

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Shaw, Elizabeth (1920–1992)

Irish illustrator, cartoonist, travel writer, author, and autobiographer. Name variations: Elizabeth Shaw-Graetz. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1920; died in 1992; married Rene Graetz, in 1946.

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1920, Elizabeth Shaw attended the Chelsea Art School in London, England, where her teachers included Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland. During World War II, she distinguished herself as an illustrator and cartoonist, contributing to such publications as Our Time and Lilliput. After moving to Germany in 1946, Shaw married Swiss-born Rene Graetz. They learned German and sought to establish a Communist society in Berlin. Shaw and Graetz attended the founding meetings of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France. During the McCarthy era of virulent anti-Communism in mid-1950s America, their friends included a number of American and British dissidents.

Although establishing her reputation with caricatures of East Berlin's intelligentsia, Shaw devoted two decades to collaborating with Bertha Waterstradt on the production of Das Magazin, which published the work of women writers and artists. During this time, she also wrote and illustrated children's books, earning international acclaim for her illustrations for a collection of Bertolt Brecht's verse for children. Shaw's career included exhibitions of her work by the British Arts Council in Coventry and in Belfast, and receipt of the Kathe Kollwitz Prize in 1981. Later, Shaw parlayed her many journeys, especially throughout Ireland, into several travel books. She completed her autobiography, Irish Berlin, which was published in German in 1990. She died two years later.


Newman, Kate, comp. Dictionary of Ulster Biography. Belfast: Queen's University of Belfast, 1993.

Grant Eldridge , freelance writer, Pontiac, Michigan