Saturday, August 27, 2016

Boris Dolgov (?-?)

Artist
Born ?
Died ?

Boris Dolgov did not exist. The man who bore that name may have existed, but there never was a man in the United States with that name until 1956, too late for Weird Tales. At least that's what public records say. Search for Boris Dolgov or Dolgoff or Dolgova or Dolkoff or any other permutation you can think of and you're likely to come up empty . . . except for a Russian-American farmer who now lies buried in a Jewish cemetery in Washington State.

It seems likely to me that Boris Dolgov was the assumed name of a man who, for whatever reason, wanted to remain or was satisfied to remain unknown. He was friends with the artist and writer Hannes Bok. They sometimes collaborated, signing their joint work "Dolbokov." Dolgov had his first interior illustration in the genres of fantasy and science fiction in Science Fiction Quarterly for Summer 1941. His first illustration for Weird Tales followed in September of that year. His last came thirteen years later, in July 1954, the penultimate issue of "The Unique Magazine." In between, Dolgov created dozens of interior illustrations and five covers for Weird Tales. His only known book cover was for Destination: Universe! by A.E. van Vogt, published in 1952. After 1954, he disappeared forever.

Like his artist friend, Hannes Bok also worked under an assumed name. Born Wayne Francis Woodard on July 2, 1914, in Kansas City, Missouri, he was known for his odd ways, including his evasiveness. Despite early promise, despite success as an illustrator and author of science fiction and fantasy, and despite strong connections to others in his field, Hannes Bok went into steep decline late in his career. On April 11, 1964, at age forty-nine, he died alone in his apartment in New York City. His body was not discovered right away. If not for the intervention of his friend and collector Clarence Peacock, his art may very well have been thrown out with the trash. The official cause of death is supposed to have been a heart attack. Forrest J Ackerman and Donald J. Wollheim claimed that he starved to death. Shades of H.P. Lovecraft. Shades also of Hugh Rankin.

Hannes Bok's first work for a major magazine (what science fiction fans I think would have called a prozine) was for Weird Tales. He had his first cover and his first interior art published in the same issue, December 1939. "In 1939," wrote Frederik Pohl,
Hans Bok was all of twenty-five years old and thus a senior citizen among us, but he looked younger. He looked--well, "elfin" is the word that others have used to describe him, and it does as well as any. It wasn't just his a matter of physical appearance. His manner was both reserved and, well, flighty, not to say downright evasive; there were obviously huge hunks of Hannes's internal life which he did not care to share even with friends. (1)
As I said, Wayne Francis Woodard, later known as Hannes Bok, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. In the censuses of 1920 and 1930, he was listed with his family in Minnesota, in 1920 in St. Paul, in 1930 in Duluth. Woodard graduated from Duluth High School in 1932. He left for Seattle that same year. In 1937 or 1938, he moved to Los Angeles, where he knew Emil Petaja, Ray Bradbury, Forrest J Ackerman, and others in the Los Angeles science fiction scene. In 1938, he returned to Seattle and worked for the WPA painting murals. His artist contacts in that city included Morris Graves (1910-2001) and Mark Tobey (1890-1976), both of whom, like Woodard, were interested in mysticism or non-traditional religion. In December 1939, assuming the name Hannes Bok, he moved again to New York City. There he knew Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, Damon Knight, Frank Belknap Long, and others. Knight, an artist himself, called Bok, "certainly the most talented artist ever to work in science fiction illustration." (2, 3)

Dolgov and Bok were both artists of imagination and whimsy. Both worked in black and white on coquille board. Unlike much of Bok's work, Dolgov's is devoid of sexual imagery, which, in Bok, clearly indicates to me that the artist had psychosexual problems. Boris Dolgov was, in comparison, an artist of innocence. Both knew and admired Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). As evidence, there is a photograph of Dolgov and Parrish together, presumably at Parrish's house in Plainfield, New Hampshire, taken by Bok. You can see it at a blog called Null Entry, here. Hannes Bok was greatly influenced by Maxfield Parrish. Perhaps no artist has worked with such great effect in the manner of Parrish. Dolgov, on the other hand, seems to have taken a different path.

Boris Dolgov is supposed to have lived in New York. You won't find him there in the census. Nor will you find there Wayne Woodard or Hannes Bok. That's a terrible development for the researcher, as finding Bok in 1940 might very well lead to Dolgov. But what if they had a connection predating their years in New York City?

Now begins the part where I clutch at straws.

Boruch Dolgoff, also known as Baruch, Bora, and Boris Dolgoff, was born on November 27, 1897, in Alexandrovik, Russia. I suspect he fled his native land because of periodic pogroms. After living in Harbin, China, Dolgoff arrived in the United States on January 23, 1916, aboard the Yokohama Maru out of Yokohama, Japan. On October 14, 1933, Dolgoff married twenty-four-year-old Minnie Samuelson in Seattle, Washington. Dolgoff (1897-1989) and his wife (1909-1991) are buried together at Herzl Memorial Park in Shoreline, Washington. For decades he was a farmer and a poultry dealer in Seattle. Hannes Bok lived in Seattle in 1932-1937 or 1938 and in 1938-1939. Could he have known Boris Dolgoff? Could he have also known in Seattle the artist later known as Boris Dolgov? And could Boris Dolgov have gotten his name from Boris Dolgoff, the poultry dealer? If so, why? More to the point, who was Boris Dolgov?

The world may never know.

Boris Dolgov's Illustrations in Weird Tales
Once again, I will refer you to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database for a full listing of Boris Dolgov's genre illustrations. Note the error in the artist who created the cover for the May 1947 issue of Weird Tales. It was actually Matt Fox.

Dolgov had two illustrations in Weird Tales for Winter 1985. These were published with Steve Rasnic Tem's story "August Freeze," but the drawings were almost certainly reprints from old issues of the magazine.

Further Reading
Boris Dolgov on the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, here.
Boris Dolgov's art in Weird Tales and a photograph of him with Maxfield Parrish on the blog Null Entry, here.

Notes
(1) From "Remembering Hannes" by Frederik Pohl in A Hannes Bok Showcase, edited by Stephen D. Korshak (Charles F. Miller, 1995), p. ix. Pohl went on in his remembrance to describe the last time he saw Hannes Bok, circa 1953. By then, Bok was living in poverty and "had become something fairly near a hermit." (p. xi) He had lost most of his teeth and had broken his dentures so that he was barely able to eat. Pohl again: "For a man who spent so much of his life producing pretty things for the rest of us to enjoy, the last stages of Hannes's life, and especially his death, were lacking in prettiness of any kind." (p. xi)
(2) From The Futurians by Damon Knight (John Day, 1977), p. 53.
(3) Woodard's family, Irving Ingalls Woodard, Carolyn Bantiz Woodard, and their son William Grant Woodard, were back in Missouri in 1940, living in Kirkwood. In the 1940s and '50s, Irving and Carolyn lived in Omaha, Nebraska. Irving I. Woodard died on November 26, 1975, in Galveston, Texas, as a result of being burned while smoking in bed. His younger son, William, preceded him in death on July 25, 1972, in Beaumont, Texas. I don't know the fate of his wife.

A gallery of covers by Boris Dolgov, first, from November 1946.

March 1947.

September 1947.

January 1948.

And last, from May 1950.
Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

5 comments:

  1. how very fitting that an artist for WEIRD TALES never seems to have existed!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, very cool stuff on a guy I thought was pretty interesting as an artist. To bad there is nothing to be learned about him and Bok. Very nice blogging on him.

    ReplyDelete
  3. One of my favorite Weird Tales artists.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks to all of the above for writing and for the appreciation.

    TH

    ReplyDelete