Pioneering cartoon artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, whose self-deprecating drawings about frustrations and sexual longing made her a feminist hero, died from pancreatic cancer at 74 years old at her home in France on Tuesday. News of her death began spreading on social media and was later confirmed by David Zwirner, which represents her husband, R. Crumb.
Kominsky-Crumb came up in the underground comics scene that grew out of the 1960s counterculture. While the scene was not particularly supportive of women, Kominsky-Crumb broke through with her frank and unapologetic autobiographical comics, which often depicted women with hairy armpits, large noses, and big butts in black-and-white.
In 2016, she became one of twelve female cartoonists listed by the Comics Alliance as deserving of a lifetime achievement recognition.
Born Aline Goldsmith in 1948, Kominsky-Crumb grew up in Long Island, New York. It wasn’t until she attended the University of Arizona in Tucson in the late 1960s that she first got into underground comics. In 1972, she moved to San Francisco to pursue her artistic career. There, she met artist Robert Crumb, who is now better known by the name R. Crumb, after mutual friends noticed a resemblance between their work. They married in 1978 and had a daughter named Sophie in 1981.
While living in San Francisco, Kominsky-Crumb served as a founding member of the all-female collective that produced the long-running anthology Wimmin’s Comix (1972–85), which addressed such topics as queer life, abortion, and rape. In 1975, she cofounded with Diane Noomin the women’s comic Twisted Sisters, which tackled political issues around female empowerment, criticized of the patriarchy, took up sexual politics and lesbianism, and more.
Kominsky-Crumb moved to the south of France in 1990, where she had continued to make comics and paintings, with her husband and daughter. Kominsky-Crumb’s 2007 memoir Need More Love spurred a critical reevaluation of her oeuvre. In recent years, her work could be found in bookstores and in major galleries like David Zwirner.