Ilonka Karasz (1896-1981) designed in a variety of media, including wallpaper, silver, textiles, and furniture, but was probably best known for her New Yorker magazine cover illustrations. She designed 186 covers in total beginning in 1925. She was the first woman admitted to the Royal School of Arts and Crafts in Budapest. After emigrating from Hungary to the United States in 1913, Karasz became one of few women working in the design field.
Although she began designing wallpapers in the 1930s, Karasz’s wallpaper career didn’t take off until the postwar period when she worked almost exclusively for Katzenbach & Warren. Her designs were printed using a variety of media, including machine printing and the new Mezzotone process, an innovation of Katzenbach & Warren. Mezzotone papers and murals were available in a variety of colors, including sepia, burgundy, blue, and yellow. Karasz believed walls should be rendered as a flat surface, and her designs present an unusual, surreal perspective not true to nature. All of Karasz’s designs printed in the Mezzotone process were hand drawn to scale in graphite and ink on linen. Even though her murals could be quite large, some measuring ten feet in height, the Mezzotone process beautifully captured all the details and nuances of her drawings. While Karasz’s designs are rendered rather flat, they are filled with a wide variety of drawn textures that add an earthy quality to her work.