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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

“Hysterical High Spots In American History” (1941)-Master Background by Willy Pogany

Updated 5/7/2008 9:23am MDT: See section in red below

As I mentioned in my posting of Maurice Noble's background, there are a number of exceptional animation backgrounds out there that are just as at home on the wall as a Mucha or other fine artist. Here is a great example by an artist best known for his classical artwork, William Andrew ("Willy") Pogany (1882-1955). Frankly, if I was going to put some art on the wall I might pick Pogany's over Noble's, BUT if I was an animation house I would rather have Noble painting the backgrounds -- that way I wouldn't be worried about the background competing for the attention of the viewer. If I remember the cartoon correctly (which is a big "if" anymore), the Pogany pieces were stand-alone items used to establish the locale for an upcoming sequence. From that perspective, they work fine.

Now, I'm really going out on a limb with this one... When I bought these, it was my understanding (man, I'm really on thin ice with this!) that there were some staff issues at Lantz and Pogany, who lived down the street, stepped in to help get the film moving toward completion. At least, that's what I seem to remember. But, hey, it took me an hour to find my glasses this morning!

Update 5/7/2008: The individual that sold me the two pieces by Pogany wrote me concerning the "back story" on this:
You mention that you can’t remember the story I told you but you had it essentially correct. I don’t know that Pogony lived down the street but the information I had was that he was a good friend of Walter Lantz and during the 1941 strike he came in to the studio and created backgrounds for Walter “as favor to a friend”. It all makes sense to me as the timing of the film, the strike and the information I have about the strike all coincide. He had SUPPOSEDLY done some backgrounds for Lantz in the 30s as well but I can’t remember the names of the production he worked on.

When I looked over my notes on Pogany, I was struck by how different his bio was from source to source. For example, Wikipedia: Willy Pogany noted:
A Hungarian and prolific illustrator of children's and adult books. Born Vilmos Andreas Pogany in Szeged, Hungary. He studied at Budapest Technical University and in Munich and Paris. Pogany came to America via Paris and London. In London, he produced his four masterpieces, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1910), Richard Wagner's Tannhauser (1911), Parsifal (1912) and Lohengrin (1913). In 1918 he illustrated a children's rewrite of Homer, The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy, retold by Padraic Colum.
On IMDB: Willy Pogany, his bio cited a number of films for which he was either in the Art Department or Art Director between 1931 and 1937. In the Notes/Trivia section (which I love to read), it was written:
Designer of the swimming pool at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn Heights (New York), at the time the largest salt-water pool in the world.
Pogany's best known works consist of illustrations of classic myths and legends done in the Art Nouveau style. He also worked as an art director on several Hollywood films, including "Fashions of 1934" and "Dames." At 27, he illustrated in the Art Nouveau style of the period, a 1910 book edition of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The leather-bound book was published in a limited edition of 500.
What struck me is total lack of references to animation -- either as an artist or participant.

That being said, this world is a better place because a classical artist took some time to have fun!

----- DATABASE NOTES -----

From “Hysterical High Spots In American History” (1941), a Walter Lantz film. Background painting by Willy Pogany. [Image: 12”W x 9.5”H; Frame: 20”W x 17”H] Acquired 2005. SeqID-1580

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