Willy Pogány and His "Ancient Mariner"
William Andrew Pogány (1882-1955) was born in Szeged, Hungary, and first studied engineering in Budapest before switching to art, which he studied in Budapest and Munich before working in Paris for a few years. Around 1905 he arrived in London for a brief stay on his way to the United States but ended up living and working there for a decade, "achieving a considerable reputation as a book illustrator." He moved to New York in 1915 and had success as a book illustrator and designer of stage sets and hotel interiors. According to Peppin and Micklethwait's Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: The Twentieth Century, "he worked in Hollywood as an art director for Warner's First National Studios" -- a predecessor of Warner Brothers -- in the 1930s.
Peppin and Micklethwait claim that, despite his popularity and success as an illustrator, he "never really developed a distinctive style of his own during his years in England," and he echoed the work of great contemporary illustrators, including Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, and Charles Robinson. They point out that "his best illustrations were in pen and ink -- a medium which he handled with fluency and confidence" -- but that his work in color is not as good. The one work of Pogány's they discuss is The Ancient Mariner, "one of his best-known books": Pogány "was responsible for the hand-scripted text, green and mauve page decorations and borders, full-page black and white drawings, and tipped-in plates in full colour." According to them, "the effect was curious rather than artistically satisfying." I disagree and believe that The Ancient Mariner is a bold artistic experiment in unifying text and images that succeeds brilliantly. In this artist-book Pogány attempts to create a printed version, or print equivalent, of medieval illuminated manuscripts, something signalled by his inclusion of two plates containing illuminated Latin texts.
Pogány's illustrations have no captions or titles, and I have chosen titles from the passages in the poem they appear to depict; in most cases illustrations and decorations appear on pages facing the relevant text. Like illuminated manuscripts, the book has no pagination.
Book Jacket and Front Matter
Tipped-in Reproductions of Watercolors
- he stoppeth one of three
- The ship was cheered
- And now the Storm-Blast Came
- In mist or cloud, on mast and shroud
- As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean
- About, about, in reel and rout
- She steadies with upright keel!
- Her lips were red, her looks were free
- The souls did from their bodies fly
- And they all dead did lie
- The Water-Snakes
- The helmsman steered, the ship moved on
- Around, around, flew each sweet sound
- Under the keel nine fathom deep
- All fixed on me their stony eyes
- The harbour-bay was clear as glass
- The Pilot and the Pilot's boy
- When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow
- In the garden-bower the bride
- To walk together to the kirk
- My body lay afloat
- How long in that same fit I lay
- I shot the Albatross
- This soul hath been alone on a wide wide sea
- Oh! dream of joy!
- Part I Title-page
- Part II Title-page
- Part III Title-page
- Part IV Title-page
- Part V Title-page
- Part VI Title-page
- Part VII Title-page
- The ship and the wind personified
- The mariner and his cross bow within a heart-shaped border
- At length did cross an Albatross
- Slimy things did crawl . . . upon the slimy sea
- Heavenly hand
- Ascending male nude
- The rock shone bright, the kirk no less
ReferencesColeridge, Samuel Taylor. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Presented [Illustrated, designed, and decorated] by Willy Pogány. New York: George H. Doran Co., [c.1910]. According to Peppin and Micklethwait, this book was published in England (1910) by Harrap in both limited and trade editions. I am not sure which my copy is: it's luxurious enough for a limited edition, but at 10 1/8 x 7 1/4 inches it appears too small for a limited edition, which generally had a larger format than trade books. [GPL]
Peppin, Brigid, and Lucy Micklethwait. Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: The Twentieth Century. London: John Murray,1983.
Last modified 12 October 2005