Ranan Lurie was born on 26 May 1932 in Port Said, Egypt. He was educated at Herzelia College, Tel Aviv, and the Jerusalem College of the Fine Arts. In 1946 he joined the Zionist paramilitary "Irgun" organisation, and lied about his age in order to serve in a combat unit. Two years later he was wounded in fighting near Tel-Aviv.
After graduation Lurie worked first as a journalist on the Hebrew-language daily Ma'ariv from 1950 to 1952, then became features editor of the Hador Daily in 1953, editor-in-chief of the weekly Tavel in 1954, and Political Cartoonist on the Yedioth Aharonot Daily from 1955 to 1967. In February 1957 a spread in "Life" magazine brought him international attention as a cartoonist.
In 1954 Lurie was assigned to a reserve unit of Special Forces skydivers, and undergoes training. When the Arab-Israeli Six Day War began in 1967 Lurie had just opened a one-man show at Expo '67 in Montreal. He flew back to Israel, where he was a reserve combat major with the Paratroopers, led his company into battle, and was back in Montreal within three weeks.
In 1968 Lurie was offered a job by the American weekly Life Magazine, and became their political cartoonist. The editor, Thomas Griffith, recalled that "each week Life would fly Lurie down from Canada, he would check in at the Waldorf-Astoria, talk over editorial ideas with us, draw them quickly, then fly back to his family in Montreal."
Lurie quickly adapted to the US political scene. "I would show him a draft of an editorial", Griffith noted, "he would read it carefully, seize its point, ask a question or two, excuse himself and return fifteen minutes later with three or four cartoon ideas to choose from": "These were all swift pencil sketches, like a child's drawings. In the beginning these same simplistic drawings, finished off in black and white ink, were what appeared in Life...Gradually, with our encouragement, he began working likenesses into drawings and they began to evolve into the Lurie style of...large recognisable heads thrusting out of small bodies with mincing feet."
At first Lurie was on exclusive contract to Life Magazine, but he managed to negotiate greater freedom. In 1970 he began contributing to the New York Times, and by the time that Life Magazine folded in 1972, he had a contract with the New York Times Special Features Syndicate, allowing him complete editorial freedom. He had also moved to the USA, and later took US citizenship. Lurie received numerous awards, including the US Headliners Award in 1972, Oustanding Editorial Cartoonist from the US National Cartoonists' Society from 1972 to 1978, and the New York Front Page Award in 1972, 1974, and 1977. In 1973 he began producing a full-page cartoon feature "Lurie's Opinion" for Newsweek International, claiming an audience of thirty-two million for this feature, which lasted until 1976.
Lurie now valued political acumen over artistic ability. "The only difference between a good editorial writer and a good political cartoonist", he noted in 1974, "is that the editorial writer does not know how to draw": "I once told a senior editor of the New York Times that to sense the real worth of a political cartoonist one must imagine that the cartoonist breaks his right hand and that his editor suggests to him that, since he cannot draw for the next three months, he should dictate a daily written editorial to his secretary."
Lurie also acted as editor and political cartoonist of Vision Magazine, and was a freelance contributor to the Wall Street Journal, and to Paris-Match. In 1979 he became staff political cartoonist on the Honolulu Advertiser, and in 1980 took a job as interviewer and cartoonist for the German newspaper Die Welt. However, despite accepting a two-year appointment, Lurie stayed at Die Welt for only nine months and left accusing the paper of breach of contract. In May 1981 Harold Evans recruited Lurie as staff political cartoonist for The Times - the first since Mahood. The paper's deputy editor, Charles Douglas-Home, recalled being "somewhat startled by his arrival, because The Times had not been accustomed to the presence of a resident cartoonist and certainly not one who appeared to have such a precise and perfectionist idea of his role": "My fears were unfounded as it turned out."
In 1982 Lurie won the John Fischetti Political Cartoon Award, but his job at The Times lasted only twenty months, and in 1983 he took a year's job on the editorial staff of the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, as cartoonist and political interviewer. In 1984 he became Senior Analyst and Political Cartoonist for US News and World Report, but left after fifteen months. In 1985 he became Chief Editorial Director of the Editors' Press Syndicate, and experimented with television cartooning for PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour. Lurie extended this to animated political cartoons, which appeared on American television in ABC's Nightline from 1991 to 1993.
In 1994 Lurie began producing a weekly political cartoon page called "Lurie's World" for Time International magazine, until in 1996 he founded and became editor-in-chief of Cartoon News. In 1997 he became the first political cartoonist for the Swiss paper Neue ZÃ¼rcher Zeitung, working from his studio in New York, until in 2000 he became political cartoonist for Foreign Affairs magazine. Lurie draws in ink with fine hatching and a liberal use of solid blacks, but also paints in oils and sculpts. He considers that humour in cartooning is incidental to the political message, writing that "the funny side of the political cartoon is not an aim in itself, only a tool or a bait to bring the reader closer to the cartoonist's message."
- CSCC Archive, Ranan Lurie to Graham Thomas, 22 June 1974.
- Thomas Griffith "Foreword" in Ranan Lurie NiXon Rated Cartoons: Revised 1974 Edition (New York, 1974), pp.9-14.
- Observer, 6 September 1981, "Cartoonist Draws Big Figure."
- Press Release for PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, 13 October 1985.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.143-4.
- Ranan Lurie's website at www.luriecartoon.com/about_lurie.htm