Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hubert Rogers (1898 - 1982) – Underappreciated Canadian Artist

Recently, I became aware that one the most prominent cover artists for Astounding magazine, Hubert Rogers, was Canadian. I decided to do a little digging and discovered to my surprise that he had a long and illustrious career and body of work outside of the science fiction community. Born in Alberton, Prince Edward Island, Hubert Rogers' art encompasses everything from black and white charcoal sketches, brash and colourful science fiction pulp magazine covers to P.E.I. landscapes and striking portraits of the famous and not-so-famous.

He received schooling in Boston for a year, followed by a year at West Kent School in Charlottetown and a year at Acadia in Wolfsville, Nova Scotia. Rogers was encouraged by a teacher at Toronto Central Technical School to pursue his talent for art.

After serving in the First World War, he returned to Alberton, working on catalog designs for Holmans in Summerside, P.E.I. where he designed their first cover in 1922. Rogers returned to Boston for four years to study at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. He remained in the U.S., working for newspapers, including the New York Herald Tribune, and the New York Times (night art editor).

During the depression years, Rogers worked in the American southwest doing magazine covers and portraits of the Pueblo Indians. Several of Rogers’ pieces from this time period now reside in the Smithsonian Institute.

Rogers found his fame as one of the foremost science fiction magazine illustrators in New York, a period spanning the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. His paintings and drawings appeared in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction at the moment that a group of writers who would become famous and influential around the world began to publish their earliest and most important works. Among the classic science fiction works he illustrated were Methuselah’s Children by Robert Heinlein, Slan and The World of Null-A by A.E. van Vogt, “Nightfall” and Foundation by Isaac Asimov, Grey Lensman by E. E. “Doc” Smith and Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard (later founder of the Church of Scientology). Rogers created both original color paintings which were published on the covers of the magazine and black and white illustrations for the interior pages.

During World War II, Rogers returned to Canada to create art for posters (Men of Valour series) and other publications to support the war effort. He also painted the 1943 Quebec Conference which features 34 portraits including Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and William Lyon Mackenzie King. The Quebec Conference painting hangs in the National War Museum in Ottawa. Other significant Canadian artists also produced designs for the Wartime Information Board, including A.J. Casson, Laurence Hyde, A.Y. Jackson, Harry Mayerovitch, and Marion Scott.

Later in his career, he became one of Canada'’s most prominent portrait artists. Rogers’ portraits included the painting of all of the commissioners of the RCMP for the RCMP museum in Regina. A painting of Muriel Murtagh, the first woman senator hangs in the Senate and a painting of Viscount Alexander of Tunis hangs in Government House in Ottawa.

In later years, Rogers produced many landscapes and oil paintings of Atlantic Canada locations many of which are prominently displayed in the Canadian Club in New York City.

15 comments:

  1. I believe that the portrait executed by Hubert Rogers which hangs in the Senate is that of Muriel McQueen Fergusson, the first woman Speaker of the Senate. Public tours of the Parliament Buildings go along a corridor with portraits of former Speakers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm a friend of Hubert's son, Norman. He's played bass on a lot of my recordings. One day he took me up to his attic. It had many of Hubert's works. It was quite a thrill.
    Best regards,
    Jeff Potter

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have an original Rogers oil painting of a 1936 Adventure Magazine cover. The painting of a French Foreign Legionaire was a gift to my late husband,when he was a young boy,from Maurice, a former French Legionaire. My guests are always fascinated by the painting. I did not like it at first as it was hung above the bed in our newly wed apartment in NY. Not very romantic but my husband loved it. It has become a family friend. I just recently researched Mr. Rogers and find that I have a treasure. Judith

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Judith,

      Is it the one of two French Legionaries from Feb, 36' or the single Legionnaire from June 36' If you ever think of parting with it I would make a fair market value for it. I'm also in NYC.
      senbach@hotmail.com

      Delete
    2. I also have an original; he did a portrait of my son who
      was 3 years old at the time ( in 1979 )

      Delete
  4. Hey Judith it does indeed sound like a treasure. Last year an exhibition of his paintings took place at a major science fiction convention in Boston and the year before another at
    the University of Massachusetts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you know a collector who mught be interested in a July 1930 orignal oil on canvas paintintg from Hubert Rogers please get back to me at briannhpfd@aol.com.
      It was the cover for Astounding Magazine July 1930. It looks like an outer space scene. The people in the pictures have antennas coming out of their heads.

      Delete
  5. To Judith(French Legionaire cover) and Jeff Potter,
    This is Liz, I am Hubert Rogers's daughter. Judith, I would love to have a reproduction quality photo of your painting of the French Legionaire some day. I work at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. My brother and I are thinking of doing a book on our father and are looking for good images of his work since we have few of the originals.
    To Jeff, hello.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi - I have a drawing of my Mother done by Hubert Rogers in 1967. It is an amazing likeness - one of my most treasured possessions. Liz - I would be glad to send you a copy if that would be of interest.

    ReplyDelete
  7. To Liz, I would be happy to send you a picture of my Legionaire. What do you consider a reproduction quality copy. Judith

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hubert was my neighbor in Manotick. I would often just knock on his door and he would let me in to see his art work and sometimes watch him paint, he later did a portrait of my father which we proudly display.
    He was a very kind man and a great artist.

    ReplyDelete
  9. TS thanks for adding your personal Rogers story to the post.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Liz, My name is Brian Sherwood. I have a oil painting on canvas that your dad painted. I am trying to sell it to a collector if you know anyone. What i have is the painting from Astounding magazine from July, 1930. It is a picture with a male and female x2. They both have what looks like antennas coming from their heads. I live in NY and do not know any collectors in Canada that might be interested. If you do my email is briannhpfd@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I relished science fiction as a boy. The Lexington, MA public library, home to professors at Harvard, Radcliff, and MIT, was accordingly well stocked with Wells, Heinlein, Vogt, Robertson, Robinson, Verne, Huxley, Williamson, and Orwell. I had no idea that I was reading "the classics."
    Later, still in the Boston area, I met a wonderful mad man, Rick (Richard) Berry. He had an apartment in Arlington, newly married to Sheila. I would visit and, at the time, around 1980, and watch him paint. The oil on the easel would be named "The Leaves Are Turning" and I was intrigued to watch as the image unfolded -- a gnarly twisted tree with a most engaging gargoyle-like creature atop the trunk. His style was amusing, as, it was as if, at any moment he was answering the question, "what is missing?" I offered to buy the painting one of those days and he agreed but said it was not finished. I thought it was; yet several weeks later it had even greater depth and imagination. In these days the Victor Hugo bookstore on Newbury St., Boston, rented out loft space on its second floor. Here I met Phil Hale, and I again watched in amazement as the two collaborated on various works. As many know, they illustrated for cyberpunk and have both distinguished careers.
    Two years ago I attended the Boston Antiquarian Book show and carefully thumbed a first edition of Heinlein's Green Hills (for $600). I proudly commented to the seller that the cover art was by my uncle, Hugh (Hubert) Rogers. Hugh had married my father's sister Helen (Priest) in 1941 when Hugh lived a floor above her in Greenwich Village, New York. They had two children, Norman and Elizabeth (Liz) and I was moved to comment here having been with her yesterday, at a memorial service for her mother's, brother's (Dorman E. Priest) wife, Jean Hazard. It was then that I learned that Hugh's son Norman passed last year.
    Norman was a musician and singer, a father and I vividly remember his presence when he visited four years ago.
    And Liz lost her husband last year, and was left with a farm in Western Mass. to contend with.
    Hugh's wife, Helen, was the oldest of the Priest family of Canton, NY. Her father was chair of the St. Lawrence University Physics Department, but died during WWII at 45. My father, Dorman, once said that, absent Ward's regular physician, due to the war, it might have been otherwise.
    To my knowledge, Helen and Hugh often lived apart. Helen had pioneered choreographic notation for modern dance, working with Martha Graham. She had started the Dance Notation Bureau; dancing at Bennington the summer of 1938 where she saw Ms. Graham dance for the first time. (See: http://www.worldcat.org/title/interview-with-helen-rogers/oclc/262558915 }
    Helen and Hugh eventually moved to Brattleboro, VT to a lovely rambling farmhouse. Helen went on to teach modern dance at Mt. Holyoke College (1953-1975). I recall an early family visit in 1955 when I was nine. I recall a home with an elevated 2nd floor. I recall the Mt. Holyoke swimming pool and perhaps this house was an interim place -- Liz could easily say.
    I do recall that all through this period, and I presume for most of Helen and Hugh's marriage, that Hugh spent enormous amounts of time away from the family, especially as he continued his paintings of Canadian National figures.
    In summary, I imagined that Norman and Elizabeth experienced a trying childhood as two very different people, with their own very different interests caused various isolations. And, while my own family was only two hours away, our reunions were much too few. When Helen passed in 1999, there was a reunion at their farmhouse. I was impressed to find a few Laurentians in the barn, published by St. Lawrence University, where my great grandfather, Henry Priest, who had been Dean in the late 1800's, and received an entire issue with many fine comments by fellow professors.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Dr. Priest

    Thank you very much for dropping by and sharing your very personal experiences about Hubert Rogers and his and your family. From your post I note we share a common Golden Age experience with our science fiction. I originally wrote this article as a tribute to Hubert Rogers when I discovered his Canadian connections. As a Canadian blogger I especially appreciated his impact on the science fiction art world but also the larger world of Canadian and American art as well. One of these days, I hope to transfer the information I have to a basic Wikipedia article to ensure the accessibility of his contributions.

    I noticed when I re-reviewed my posting that the links were broken to the various galleries I originally set up. These have now been fixed.

    While I have visited the Victor Hugo store (in the late 70's) I was not aware of the gallery and your chance to view the artists collaboration must have been quite rewarding. If in the future you have any additional biographical data about Hubert Rogers you would be willing to share, I would be happy to update this article and post it here.

    ReplyDelete

For bloggers comments are like water to a man (or woman) wandering in the desert. A precious commodity. I love to hear from everyone and do my best to respond to every post.