World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Willy Pogany

Willy Pogany
Illustration by Willy Pogany (1911) from the book, Walk Me Through My Dreams (A Picture book of Verses) by Joe Lindsay.
Born Vilmos Andreas Pogány
August 1882
Szeged, Austria-Hungary
Died 30 July 1955
Manhattan, New York City
Nationality United States
Known for painting
Notable work illustrated books
Movement Art Nouveau

William Andrew ("Willy") Pogany (born Vilmos Andreas Pogány) (August 1882 – 30 July 1955) was a prolific Hungarian illustrator of children's and other books. His contemporaries include C. Coles Phillips, Joseph Clement Coll, Edmund Dulac, Harvey Dunn, Walter Everett, Harry Rountree, Sarah Stilwell Weber, and N.C. Wyeth.[1] He is best known for his pen and ink drawings of myths and fables.[2] A large portion of Pogany's work is described as Art Nouveau.[2] Pogany's artistic style is heavily fairy-tale orientated and often feature motifs of mythical animals such as nymphs and pixies.[2] He paid great attention to botanical details.[2] He used dreamy and warm pastel scenes with watercolors, oil paintings, and especially pen and ink.[2] Painstakingly detailed and confident, Pogany's pen and ink pieces portray the true extent of his talent.[2]


  • Background 1
  • Career 2
  • Lawsuit 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Works 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Pogany was born in Szeged, Austria-Hungary. He studied at Budapest Technical University and in Munich and Paris.[3] He spent his early childhood with his brothers and sisters in a large farmhouse full of chickens, ducks, geese, dogs, pigs, and horses.[4]

When he was six, his parents took him to Budapest where he would later be sent to school.[4] He had early ambitions on becoming an engineer in the hopes of looking after his mother after his father died.[4] He especially liked to row and to play soccer. In his spare time, he drew pictures and painted.[4] He enjoyed painting and drawing so much he decided to be an artist.[4] He attended Budapest Technical School for less than a year, during this time he took art classes for six weeks.[5] He sold his first painting to a wealthy patron for $24.[5] He spent his early twenties attending art school and would later travel to Munich, Paris, and London before coming to the United States in 1914.[2]

When Pogany went to Paris to study and paint, nobody paid too much attention to him or bought his pictures.[4] He was very poor and often went hungry.[4]

When he finally saved up some money from his work, he left Paris to go to London. Pogany spent two years in Paris and ten in London.[6] In 1906, Rackham's Rip Van Winkle gained massive popularity, sparking a demand for artists in London.[1] With The Welsh Fairy Book by T. Fisher Unwin, Pogany illustrated over 100 plates, illustrations, vignettes, chapter heads and tails, and initials.[1] Milly and Olly had 48.[1] The Adventures of a Dodo had 70.[1] Faust had 30 color plates.[1]

Besides book illustration, pictures, mural paintings, portraits, etchings, and sculptures, when he moved to America Pogany became interested in theatre and designed stage settings and costumes for different shows and the Metropolitan Opera House.[4] Although reluctant at first, he moved to Hollywood to serve as an art director for several film studios during the 1930s and 1940s.[7]


Frontispiece art by Willy Pogány to the book The Wishing-Ring Man by Margaret Widdemer published by Henry Holt and Company, 1917

In London, he crafted his quartet of masterpieces: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1910), Tannhauser (1911), Parsifal (1912) and Lohengrin (1913).[6] Each of these was designed completely by Pogany, from the covers and endpapers to the text written in pen and ink, pencil, wash, color and tipped-on plates.[6]

The Ancient Mariner, a large book 9.5" by 11.75".[6] is recognized as his masterpiece. Each page has at least two colors, sometimes with gilt plate accompanied by intricate borders.[6] The initials are elaborate, starting each page and with ornate capitals at the beginning of every line.[6] The illuminated title page, 18 color plates, the second color through black-and-white plates, the flowing calligraphic text, and the pen-and-ink drawings throughout the pages make this a stand out among Pogany's works.[6]

The Rime's beauty is accentuated by its soft ivory paper and subtle lavender borders. The three gray stocks on Wagner's book add depth towards his presentation.[6]

In Lohengrin, Pogany set his soft color pencil drawings against the grays.[6] In Tannhauser, Pogany used paper color for further additional dimension.[6] From soft pastel pencil drawings to watercolor paintings and pen and ink, Pogany utilized a variety of media in his illustrations.[6]

Pogany's beautiful and bizarre illustrations for Padraic Colum's The King of Ireland's Son use brilliant color and startlingly modern styles of seeing to show the magical journey of the hero, his beloved Fedelma and the second hero Flann. A horse-headed giant has the great patient head of a Clydesdale plough horse; a girl bathes naked while the hero steals the swan skin that would allow her to transform and take flight, the young man leads a fine steed with Fedelma mounted on it as they are attacked by a cloud of crows – strange, dreamy, beautiful images.[8]

Pogany worked as an art director on several Hollywood films, including Fashions of 1934 and Dames. He began his involvement in motion picture set design in 1924 and worked in film until the end of the 1930s.[5] He was commissioned by John Ringling, Ettenger, Reiner and WIlliam Randolph Hears's Wyntoon Estate,[5] painted for the Barrymore family, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Carole Lombard, Enrico Causo, Miriam Hopkins, and many others.[5]

Pogany was awarded gold medals in Budapest and Leipzig Expo as well as the London Masonic Medal, and became a Fellow of the London Royal Society of Art.[5] The New York Society of Architects gave him a silver medal for his mural in the August Heckscher's Children's Theatre showing Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack in the Beanstalk.[5] He won a gold medal in 1915 at the Panama Pacific Expo for his work The ValCares.[5] and was also awarded the Hungarian Silver Blue Medal.[5]

In 1914, Pogany's illustrations appeared on the cover of Metropolitan Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, Harper's Weekly, Hearst's Town and Country, Theatre Magazine and American Weekly.[5] In 1917 to 1921, he worked for the Metropolitan Opera designing sketches, scenery and costumes.[5] In 1918 he illustrated a children's retelling of Homer, The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy written by Padraic Colum.


In his 1952 autobiography Witness, Whittaker Chambers described "Willi Pogany" ("long a scene designer at the Metropolitan Opera House") as the brother of Joseph Pogany.[9]

Willy Pogany sued Chambers for $1 million but lost in court[10] and appeals.[11] According to Time magazine, "A lower court had found that Chambers, in his mistaken identification, had not maliciously implied that Willy was closely associated with 'a Communist leader and spy'," who had been "once (until Stalin liquidated him) Communist Hungary's puppet Commissar of War."[11]

Personal life

Pogany married Lillian Rose Doris in 1908 in London, and had two sons with her: Peter and John Pogany.[7] They moved to New York City in 1914 [7] and he was naturalized in 1921.[7] In 1933 they divorced.[7] The following year, he married writer Elaine Cox. He died in New York City on July 30, 1955.[7]

Asked how his name was pronounced, he told the Literary Digest that in America it was po-GAH-ny. "However, in my native Hungary this name is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable with a slightly shorter o and the gany is as the French -gagne (the y is silent)": PO-gahn.[12]


"The Young Witch", Pogany illustration for a 1908 edition of Faust

Pogany's public art appears on walls of the Ringling Mansion in Sarasota, Florida, and in New York City at the El Museo del Barrio theater (1230 Fifth Avenue) and the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (45th Street).

Pogany published or illustrated the following:

  • Kunos, I. Turkish Fairy Tales Burt 1901
  • Farrow, G. E. The Adventures of a Dodo Unwin 1907
  • Thomas, W. J. The Welsh Fairy Book Unwin 1907
  • Ward, M. A. Milly and Olly Unwin 1907
  • Edgar, M. G. A Treasury of Verse for Little Children Harrap 1908
  • Goethe, J. W. von Faust Hutchinson 1908
  • Dasent, G. W. Norse Wonder Tales Collins 1909
  • Hawthorne, N. Tanglewood Tales Unwin 1909
  • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Harrap 1909
  • Coleridge, S. T. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Harrap 1910
  • Gask, L. Folk Tales from Many Lands Harrap 1910
  • Young, G. The Witch s Kitchen Harrap 1910
  • Wagner, R. Tannhauser Harrap 1911
  • Gask, L. The Fairies and the Christmas Child Harrap 1912
  • Wagner, H. Parsifal Harrap 1912
  • Heine, H. Alta Troll Sidgwick 1913
  • Kunos, I. Forty-Four Turkish Fairy Tales Harrap 1913
  • Pogany, W. The Hungarian Fairy Book Unwin 1913
  • Wagner, R. The Tale of Lohengrin Harrap 1913
  • Pogany, W. Children Harrap 1914
  • A Series of Books for Children Harrap 1915
  • More Tales from the Arabian Nights Holt 1915
  • Colum, P. The King of Ireland's Son Holt 1916
  • Swift, J. Gulliver s Travels Macmillan 1917
  • Bryant, S. C. Stories to Tell the Little Ones Harrap 1918
  • Colum, P. Adventures of Odysseus Macmillan 1918
  • Olcutt, F. J. Tales of the Persian Genii Harrap 1919
  • Skinner, E. L. Children s Plays Appleton 1919
  • Elias, E. Red Riding Hood Holt 1920
  • The Children of Odin Harrap 1922
  • The Adventures of Haroun El Raschid Holt 1923
  • Newman, I. Fairy Flowers Milford 1926
  • Flanders, H. H. Looking Out of Jimmie Dent 1928
  • Carroll, L. Alice s Adventures in Wonderland Dutton 1929
  • Pogany, W. Mother Goose Nelson 1929
  • Anthony, J. Casanova Jones Century 1930
  • Pogany, W. Magyar Fairy Tales Dutton 1930
  • Burton, R. F. The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi McKay 1931
  • Huffard, G. T. My Poetry Book Winston 1934
  • Pushkin, A. The Golden Cockerel Nelson 1938
  • Pogany, Elaine. Peterkin 1940
  • Paula Pogany Bennett, The Art Of Hungarian Cooking 1954
"'How now?' cried a reassuring voice", Pogany illustration for "The Little White Feather", a fairy tale by Lilian Gask

He illustrated more than 150 volumes, including:

Pogany authored three art instruction books: Willy Pogany's Drawing Lessons, Willy Pogany's Oil Painting Lessons, and Willy Pogany's Water Color Lessons, Including Gouache. He would complete these at the end of his final years in New York.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f
  2. ^ a b c d e f g
  3. ^ Guide to the Willy Pogany papers at the University of Oregon Archived June 27, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h The Junior Book of Authors, Edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft ( New York: H. W. Wilson, 1934) /
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k
  7. ^ a b c d e f
  8. ^
  9. ^ However, this is denied by Joseph Pogany's WorldHeritage reference. Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. Random House. p. 214.  
  10. ^ "Newsmakers". TIME. October 27, 1952. 
  11. ^ a b "Newsmakers". TIME. February 14, 1955. 
  12. ^ Funk, Charles Earle (1936) What's the Name, Please?. New York: Funk & Wagnalls

External links

  • JVJ Publishing – Biography
  • American Art Archives - Will Pogany
  • Works by Willy Pogány at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Willy Pogany at Internet Archive
  • Children's Book Illustrators, archive of Pogany illustrations
  • Willy Pogany Children: Robinson Crusoe – full text and images online
  • The Fairies and the Christmas Child – full text and images online
  • Illustrations from The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum, 1920
  • Folk Tales From Many Lands - full text and images online]
  • The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy at Project Gutenberg
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.