SF Artist Spotlight: John Polgreen

John Polgreen (1910 – 1970) was a prolific illustrator, whose science-fiction illustrations for numerous children’s books and education books still resonate today and clearly influenced other artists in the field of SF art that followed him.

Self-taught, Polgreen, who lived in Dobbs Ferry, New York, studied at Syracuse University going on to illustrate some one hundred books, often working with his wife, Cathleen, an amateur astronomer, for top US publishers, including Little, Brown & Co, Random House, and Doubleday. Also a cartoonist, he favoured subjects such as astronomy and space exploration.

Adventure in Space: Man-Made Satellites by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1957)
Adventure in Space: Man-Made Satellites by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1957)
Adventure in Space: Space Pilots by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1957)
Adventure in Space: Space Pilots by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1957)
Adventure in Space: Space Stations, by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1958)
Adventure in Space: Space Stations, by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1958)
Adventure in Space: Space Travel, by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1958)
Adventure in Space: Space Travel, by Willy Ley, art by John Polgreen (1958)
John Polgreen’s cover art for Adventure in Space: Space Travel, by Willy Ley, published by Guild Press in 1958
John Polgreen’s cover art for Adventure in Space: Space Travel, by Willy Ley, published by Guild Press in 1958
Space Flight: The Coming Exploration of the Universe by Lester del Rey (1959)
Space Flight: The Coming Exploration of the Universe by Lester del Rey (1959)
Art from Planets and Space Flight (1959 Golden Press Inc.), by John Polgreen
Art from Planets and Space Flight (1959 Golden Press Inc.), by John Polgreen

A member of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observation of Variable Star Observers, his many credits include four “Adventures in Space” books written by Willy Ley, offering a striking take on space exploration, published by Guild Press; Exploring the Planets, and Exploring under the Earth: The Story of Geology and Geophysics, by Roy Gallant; Isaac Asimov’s Satellites in Outer Space; Patricia Lauber’s This Restless Earth; and The Sky Observer’s Guide. Books he illustrated became international best-sellers, translated into German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish and Finnish.

The cover of The Question and Answer Book of Space by Ruth Sonneborn, art by John Polgreen, published by Odhams (among others) in 1968
The cover of The Question and Answer Book of Space by Ruth Sonneborn, art by John Polgreen, published by Odhams (among others) in 1968
A spread from The Question and Answer Book of Space by Ruth Sonneborn, art by John Polgreen
A spread from The Question and Answer Book of Space by Ruth Sonneborn, art by John Polgreen
“Wherever G-E Equipment Goes into Battle, G-E Service Engineers Are on Duty”, promotional art for General Electric Company by John Polgreen, date unknown
“Wherever G-E Equipment Goes into Battle, G-E Service Engineers Are on Duty”, promotional art for General Electric Company by John Polgreen, date unknown

He also worked in aerospace design, commercial illustration, and illustrated numerous newspaper and magazine features, including Joseph Hergesheimer’s “White Armor” (Saturday Evening Post, November 1936) and “The Great Wall” (also for the Saturday Evening Post, December 1936).

Other illustrations appeared in Collier’s (1934, 1941), The Country Gentleman (1935), Harper’s and Red Book (1939, 1940 and 1941), Liberty (1940).

Web Links

John Polgreen Biography – Artnet

• John Polgreen – Sci-Fi-O-Rama (Selection of Art)

• Several contributors to Flickr have posted examples of John Polgreen’s work– including Curly-Wurly and Nick Derington 

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.



Categories: Art and Illustration, Books, downthetubes News, Features, Other Worlds

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