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

Monochrone Graphics

Multi-color Graphics

References

Coleridge, 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.


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Last modified 12 October 2005