Detail and Myth: Willy Pogany's Art

Willy Pogany was a prolific Hungarian illustrator best-known for his pen and ink drawings and contributions to myths and fables. He belonged to booming era of illustrators which produced the likes of Edmund Dulac, Maurice and Edward Detmold and N.C. Wyeth, and followed closely on the heels of big-name pioneers like Arthur Rackham. Read more below

Born in 1882 in Szged, Hungary, Pogany had a brief flirtation with technical school, but knew he wanted to be an artist. He spent his early twenties briefly attending art school, and traveling to Munich, Paris and London before making his way to the United States in 1914. By the time he arrived in America, Pogany was already developing a name for himself in the illustration community, having contributed works to such classics as Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and A Treasury of Verse for Children. During the last half of that decade, his illustrations graced the covers of many magazines, including Harper's Weekly, Ladies Home Journal, and Metropolitan Magazine.

Much of Pogany's work could be described as Art Nouveau - a style whose popularity was waning during Pogany's most prominent years. His art felt heavily fairy-tale oriented, and often featured motifs of mythical animals, nymphs, pixies and more, as well as great attention to botanical detail. While he often worked in softness – dreamy, warm pastel scenes or lush, elegant watercolor and oil paintings – he also did many pieces in pen and ink.

It is these pen and ink pieces that many feel hold the most obvious extent of his talent. Painstakingly detailed and confident, the addition of Pogany's work was a highly prized feather in the cap of many authors, and Pogany provided contributions to multiple volumes of work by the same authors, such as Richard Wagner, Colum Padraic, and Edith L. Elias. His versatility and skill attracted folks beyond the book world, too, and Pogany's work could be found on many motion picture sets and in murals as well. Two notable New York examples included a detailed historical mural in Wannamaker's Department Store and one at the Eldorado Hotel. He also wrote three instructional art books: Willy Pogany's Drawing Lessons, Willy Pogany's Oil Painting Lessons, and Willy Pogany's Water Color Lessons, Including Gouache.

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