“Renate, both due to geography and gender, has until now remained a subterranean figure of Anger’s underground, as if her multiple talents and interests in film, costume design and literature precluded serious attention to her work as a painter,” Levai said. “At a place like The Ranch, with its multiple histories,” he added, “it makes sense to showcase artists with this complexity.”
Born in Vienna in 1921, she studied painting at the Vienna Art Academy for Women. Druks, who was Jewish, fled Austria in 1938, on the brink of the Nazi occupation, with her husband, who was an American citizen. In the 1940s, she arrived in Los Angeles, where she became immersed in a midcentury art scene. A close friend of Anger and the writer Anaïs Nin, she threw famous (and infamous) costume parties in Malibu, including one for which she asked guests to come dressed as their particular madness — which inspired “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.”
“Her paintings are extraordinary, like a missing link between Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini,” said Lisa Janssen, who is working on a biography of Druks. Carrington, a British Surrealist who worked mostly in Mexico beginning in the 1940s, was known for her fantastical figures, many inspired by mythology and folklore; Fini, born in Argentina and raised in Italy, created groundbreaking paintings of powerful women and was part of “Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism” at the Museum of Modern Art in 1936.
Druks, for her part, “paints women with their animal familiars and pagan accouterments, still lifes of twilit tables set with magic objects, all in deep, jeweled colors, full of hidden dream meanings,” Janssen said. “She should be in the canon of women Surrealists. ”⠀