Amidst the slaughter of the First World War, 23-year-old Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky (1891-1970) decided he wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books. Rojankovsky was an officer with the Imperial Russian Army, serving in Poland. When the Russian Revolution came, he moved to the Ukraine, where he started his career as an illustrator of fairy tales and children’s books. But this first taste of his future career was short lived as Rojankovsky was conscripted into the White Army—a rag tag confederation of anti-Communists—and sent to fight against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. Rojankovsky was on the losing side and ended up behind barbed wire as a prisoner of war. On his release, he escaped to France, where he began his career as an illustrator in earnest.
Rojankovsky later claimed two things inspired his career as an artist. A childhood trip to the zoo to see “the most marvelous creatures on earth: bears, tigers, monkeys and reindeer,” and the present of a set of color crayons. The animals inspired his imagination, with the crayons he could bring his imagination to life.
In France, he adopted the name “Rojan,” an abbreviation of his surname. As an artist, Rojankovsky had a great facility for producing work in various different styles. This made him very popular with publishers who hired him to illustrate hundreds of children’s books and many works of classic and erotic works of literature by the likes of Paul Verlaine and Raymond Radiguet among others.
In 1941, when France capitulated to the invading German armies during the Second World War, Rojankovsky fled to America, where he established himself as a preeminent and award-winning illustrator of kids’ books. His work was so popular that for several generations of young Americans, Rojankovsky’s paintings and drawings were their first introduction to art and illustration. Classic books like Frog Went A-Courtin’, Rapunzel, Snow White, and The Three Bears.
As he established himself as a children’s artist, Rojankovsky also managed to maintain a highly successful career as an illustrator of some pretty hardcore erotica. It was as if that moment of self awareness long, long ago on a battlefield presciently reflected his future double life as an artist of high ideals and far more baser instincts.
Snow White: One of Rojan’s many children’s illustrations.
From ‘The Big Elephant Played His Horn” (1949).
More of Rojan’s erotic artwork, after the jump…