A defining and flat out extrordinary original illustration painting for an as of yet undetermined science fiction pulp magazine cover by Lloyd Rognan (1923-2005). An Original oil on Norlin illustration board depicting space travelers among the ruins of a railroad union station from the 1950s. Present in the image are advertising icons such as Kodak and the B & O Railroad. The artist recently passed away and many works were recently auctioned off directly from his estate. This to my eyes was the defining work by this highly regarded and frequently published illustrator.
A bio on Lloyd Rognan, courtesy of Dirk Soulis
Lloyd Norman Rognan was born of Norwegian parents in Chicago on June 14, 1923, eighteen years before America’s entry into World War II. According to his biography, Lloyd did all of the classic things that boys would do growing up in the 1930’s: movies, Tom Mix and other personalities on the radio, baseball, fights and later, girls. And all the while he sketched and drew and dreamed of being an artist.
His early inclinations were toward illustration. In high school, Lloyd illustrated the covers for the school play’s printed program, and was in charge of the artistic design for his school’s yearbook. Even then he was a perfectionist in his work.
For his last two years of high school, he transferred to Lane Tech, a college preparatory high school known for its emphasis on arts study. As Lloyd’s drive to create intensified, he wanted to drop out of school and pursue his career as an artist. Instead, by graduation time, he had also completed two years of study with the WPA art student project.
It was around this time that he received one of his first requests to produce a portrait. Lloyd’s father, an opera singer, had a friend named Knute Hansen who was a concert conductor. Knute asked Lloyd to create a likeness that could be used in printed publications and programs. At eighteen years old, Lloyd was flattered by this request and the piece was finished within half an hour. Forty-two years later the portrait re-surfaced when Mr. Hansen donated it to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. Unbeknownst to Lloyd, his work had been accepted to a museum collection.
After that portrait was created in 1941, Lloyd attended the American Academy of Art for two years. From 1943 to 1946 he served with the armed forces in Europe and, true to his calling, worked as an illustrator for the Army newspaper Stars & Stripes. He also earned extra money sketching portraits for fellow GI’s to send to their girl back home. But being an artist didn’t spare him from seeing action and he was sent into battle where he lost many of his best friends in a very short time. After three years, three months and three days, his service was over and Lloyd Rognan was himself the recipient of a Purple Heart. With his honorable discharge in 1946 Lloyd was now an aspiring young artist in Paris, France.
He immediately found work with Elle magazine and took up studies at The Acadamie De La Grande Chamiere, finishing in 1949. Lloyd embraced French life to the fullest. He spoke the language (one of four he could speak fluently). He’d had no problem landing illustration work, although in true artist fashion he earned just enough to keep hope alive. According to an April 1946 LIFE magazine article about Lloyd and other ex-GI’s in France, he earned around 9,000 francs per month or approximately $3.00 a day. That wasn’t much, but he was in France and doing what he loved.
The good news was that as a result of the article in LIFE, a Paris publisher contacted Lloyd and hired him for his best gig yet, creating cover illustrations for a French version of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. That assignment lasted for three years and set the tone for his future career. Other Paris projects that we know of included the illustration of a French paperback titled Black Arrow. The original illustration painting for this piece survives as the earliest known example of his original artwork.
In 1950, Lloyd returned to the States to polish his skills a bit more at the Chicago Art Institute, which he did from 1951 to 1953. From ’53 to early ’55 he worked for the advertising agency of Jahn Ollier. By late 1955 he was married, living in Glenview Illinois, and a free lance full time artist on his own. Glenview was the home of Bill Hamling’s Greenleaf Publishing Company. Time and again Lloyd’s work appears on the covers of Greenleaf titles such as Rogue for Men magazine (an early contemporary to Playboy), Imaginative Tales, Imagination, Fate and others. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s he stayed busy creating artwork for magazine covers, magazine ads, magazine stories, jigsaw puzzles, calendars, encyclopedias, film strips, pin ball games and more. His subjects included Science Fiction, Pin-up Girls, Cowboys, Santas, Children, Americana, History, Biology and Nature. Golden Book encyclopedias illustrated with his artwork could be found in virtually every American household. Bruce, Lloyd’s son, liked to ask new friends and girl friends if they had an encyclopedia set. Almost every time he could proudly show them his father’s work.
In the 60’s and 70’s, the Rognan creative output continued. He introduced a line of hip, fun greeting card illustrations that survive as great period pieces. He also launched a Hillbilly humor calendar concept for Brown & Bigelow called Corn Squeezins that ran for nearly two decades.
Throughout the 1990’s, in his “retirement” Lloyd created large, sunlit, complex compositions filled with characters and activities on and around the American Farm and he created strong images of the American West, a long held dream. In this period, he was also commissioned by Pickard to execute a series of paintings on the history of transportation. These works are perhaps some of his very best. Then, suddenly, after sixty years of creative output, Lloyd stopped painting. His health failed and Lloyd passed away on February 6, 2005.