Thursday, April 12, 2012

Willy Pogany Retrospective

Willy Pogany, 1882-1955

 A Longer Look at Willy Pogany
After my last post a friend wrote to say he'd been familiar only with Willy Pogany's Art-Nouveau-inspired illustrations for Padraic Colum's books. It was a great excuse to share just a few of the works of this prolific and remarkably versatile illustrator.

Willy Pogany was born in Hungary in 1882. After studying art in Paris he moved to London where, beginning in the early 1910s, he built a solid reputation as a book illustrator. He married and moved with his wife to America. He was naturalized as an American citizen in 1921. Here's a link to Pogany's Wikipedia biography, which includes several useful links if you want to learn more about him. It also tells how to pronounce his name.
Cosmetic Ad, 1923

From his "Watercolor Lessons;" probably from an earlier illustration
Most of the pictures I'll show here I found scattered about the Net. Googling Pogany images is a great adventure--the longer you look the more incredible stuff you find!
Red Cross Magazine June 1919
Pogany's two outstanding characteristics were his versatility and his amazing stylistic range. He illustrated books, art-directed major Hollywood films, sculpted, did magazine covers, designed private rooms and stage sets, painted murals, taught, and wrote books. It seemed as if every art project he undertook, he produced in a style unlike all the others. This is why it's so much fun to hunt for his images. You'll find realistic and stylized, cartoony and grandiose, elevated and lowdown, in every medium. What I show here is the tip of the iceberg. Stick around after the show for a special treat: a personal appearance by The Man himself.
From one of his versions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (he did at least two)

 "Amethyst" from a birthstone series for American Weekly

 Mother Goose--a remarkable design/illustration project


 "The Wishing Ring Man," 1917

"Sapphire," another birthstone from The American Weekly (1945)


American Weekly, 9 Mar 1947, featuring Snow White and Rose Red
From Ladies' Home Journal

One of several terrific covers for Metropolitan Magazine--circa 1916

Another great Metropolitan cover, Aug 1916

Willy shows his naughty side. Source unknown

The Taming of the Shrew

From his "Drawing Lessons" book--these were studies for one of his Omar Khayyam books

Spectacular sirens...kind of sloughed off Odysseus and the boat, though (who's looking?)
 Nasty Willy! As far as I know "The Songs of Bilitis" was his only erotic he carried the concept of "phallic symbol" to almost laughable extremes (probably on purpose).

And now the treat I promised you. Follow this link to a 1933 newsreel featurette called "The Stars of Tomorrow," in which Willy Pogany and Johnny Mack Brown ham it up while Willy pretends to draw one of the girls' portrait.

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