Willy Pogany (1882 - 1955) was born in August 1882 in Szged, Hungary. He attended Budapest Technical School for less than a year and took an art class for only six weeks. He went on to develop his art skills himself as he traveled. He sold his first painting to a wealthy patron for twenty-four dollars. He lived in Munich for a short time and added German to the other five languages that he fluently spoke. He moved to Paris from 1901-1904 where his character sketches for Le Rire became well known. He became friendly with Bernard Shaw, Herbert Morrison and others.
From 1904-1914 Pogany lived in London. He worked for several illustrators including Fischer, Unwin and Hutchinson. In 1908 George Harrap published Thomas Crowell?s ?A Treasury of Verse for Children? which contained Pogany?s illustrations and was sold to the American market. He continued his commissions for Harrap with illustrations in ?The Rubiayat? in 1909, ?Folk Tales from many Lands? and ?The Ancient Mariner? in 1910, ?Tannhauser? and ?Parsifal? in 1912 and ?Longerin? in 1913. Over eighty volumes of his work were published during his stay in London. He won gold medals at the Budapest Expo, Leipzig Expo, the London Masonic Medal and finally became a Fellow in the London Royal Society of Art.
In 1914, Willy Pogany moved to New York City to expand his artistic talents. His illustrations began to appear on the covers of Metropolitan Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, Harper?s Weekly, Hearst?s Town and Country, Theatre Magazine and American Weekly. In 1917-1921, he worked for the Metropolitan Opera designing sketches, scenery and costumes. In 1915, he was awarded the Gold Medal at the Panama-Pacific Expo for his painting entitled ?The Valcares?. He also won the Hungarian Silver Blue Medal. In 1922, he was commissioned to do a series of large scale murals inside August Heckscher?s Children?s Theatre. The murals depicted ?Cinderella?, ?Hansel and Gretel? and ?Jack in the Beanstalk?. He won a prestigious medal from the New York Society of Architects for this work. These murals are the few left in existence.
In 1924, Pogany began his involvement in motion picture set decoration which continued until the end of the 1930?s eventually working for every major studio. Concurrently, he was commissioned to do the residences of John Ringling, Ettenger, Reiner and William Randolph Hearst?s Wyntoon Estate in Mt. Shasta, CA. Through his celebrity contacts; he painted the Barrymore Family, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Carole Lombard, Enrico Caruso, Miriam Hopkins and many others.
He painted the mural in the Eldorado Hotel in New York City, in 1925, executed a 240? x 60? Centennial Celebration Silk Mural at Wanamaker?s Department Store which depicted three hundred years of New York history and painted the ?The Birth of Power? for the Niagara Falls Power Company in 1926. He also painted ten modern silk panel murals for the Knickerbocker Grill, which illustrated New York by night and by day. These murals replaced the Maxfield Parish Mural of ?Old King Cole? which was removed during prohibition. The fabulous Zeigfeld Theatre used Pogany?s wall and ceiling murals in 1927. In 1931, while he was living in Hollywood, he completed the Earl Carroll Theatre Sculpture and the 1932 Olympic Postage Stamp, which won him a medal.
During Pogany?s final years of life he moved back to New York where he completed three books dealing with drawing lessons, oil painting techniques and an illustration book for children He illustrated the cover art for the Hearst publication ?American Weekly? and in this same publication was included the Shakespeare Series and the Legendary Series. An 18? x 25? water color original sold from this series sold for $8,500. These same years saw Pogany complete portraits of the New York Mayors Laguardia, Impelliter and Wagner, all of which hung in Gracie Mansion.
On July 30, 1955, Willy Pogany died.