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J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator

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J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) renowned author of THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION, was an artist in pictures as well as in words. Though he often remarked that he had no talent for drawing, his art has charmed his readers and has been exhibited to large and appreciative audiences the world over. In fact, his talent was far more than he admitted, and his J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) renowned author of THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION, was an artist in pictures as well as in words. Though he often remarked that he had no talent for drawing, his art has charmed his readers and has been exhibited to large and appreciative audiences the world over. In fact, his talent was far more than he admitted, and his sense of design was natural and keen. J.R.R. TOLKIEN: ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR explores Tolkien's art at length, from his childhood paintings and drawings to his final sketches. At its heart are his illustrations for his books, especially his tales of Middle-earth. Also examined are the pictures Tolkien made for his children, his expressive calligraphy, his love of decoration, and his contributions to the typography and design of his books. With 200 reproductions, many in full colour, this lavishly-produced book offers a perfect opportunity for anyone wishing to discover a largely unexplored aspect of J.R.R. Tolkien's character.


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J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) renowned author of THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION, was an artist in pictures as well as in words. Though he often remarked that he had no talent for drawing, his art has charmed his readers and has been exhibited to large and appreciative audiences the world over. In fact, his talent was far more than he admitted, and his J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) renowned author of THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION, was an artist in pictures as well as in words. Though he often remarked that he had no talent for drawing, his art has charmed his readers and has been exhibited to large and appreciative audiences the world over. In fact, his talent was far more than he admitted, and his sense of design was natural and keen. J.R.R. TOLKIEN: ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR explores Tolkien's art at length, from his childhood paintings and drawings to his final sketches. At its heart are his illustrations for his books, especially his tales of Middle-earth. Also examined are the pictures Tolkien made for his children, his expressive calligraphy, his love of decoration, and his contributions to the typography and design of his books. With 200 reproductions, many in full colour, this lavishly-produced book offers a perfect opportunity for anyone wishing to discover a largely unexplored aspect of J.R.R. Tolkien's character.

30 review for J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Once I wrote a paper about Tolkien's art for a history of illustration class, and the TA came up to me and said in this sympathetic voice, "Oh, but he wasn't actually an artist." If only I had been holding this book at the time so I could shove it in her face. PS: Later the professor read part of my paper to the class because it was just that good, haha. PS #2: As regards the actual book, it's a great history of Tolkien's art, with a lot of lovely images. He was a better writer than artist, it's Once I wrote a paper about Tolkien's art for a history of illustration class, and the TA came up to me and said in this sympathetic voice, "Oh, but he wasn't actually an artist." If only I had been holding this book at the time so I could shove it in her face. PS: Later the professor read part of my paper to the class because it was just that good, haha. PS #2: As regards the actual book, it's a great history of Tolkien's art, with a lot of lovely images. He was a better writer than artist, it's true, but I think there's something really interesting about seeing a writer's own interpretations of their written works. It's like the truest form of fanart. I feel similar warm fuzzies when I see JK Rowling's own illustrations.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Samantha B

    An enjoyable and scholarly look at Tolkien's art! It was well-organized, full of pictures, and well-thought-out. Also, if anything, it made me love Tolkien more--we share a love of art coupled with the complete (and most likely false) certainty that we can't draw. And it was so fun to see some of his preliminary childhood/YA work, as well as his LOTR and Hobbit sketches (some of which were so like my imaginings it was creepy) and other Middle-Earth-related work. Four stars! An enjoyable and scholarly look at Tolkien's art! It was well-organized, full of pictures, and well-thought-out. Also, if anything, it made me love Tolkien more--we share a love of art coupled with the complete (and most likely false) certainty that we can't draw. And it was so fun to see some of his preliminary childhood/YA work, as well as his LOTR and Hobbit sketches (some of which were so like my imaginings it was creepy) and other Middle-Earth-related work. Four stars!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erika

    I came across this book in the Western Michigan University library in the process of my search for books on Tolkien's works. It caught my attention because while I considered Tolkien to be the best author of the twentieth century, I had had no idea that he was an artist. This book is filled with full color plates of Tolkien's original artwork, and each chapter focuses on different aspects of his style, influences, techniques, and areas of focus. I learned quite a bit about the things that Tolkie I came across this book in the Western Michigan University library in the process of my search for books on Tolkien's works. It caught my attention because while I considered Tolkien to be the best author of the twentieth century, I had had no idea that he was an artist. This book is filled with full color plates of Tolkien's original artwork, and each chapter focuses on different aspects of his style, influences, techniques, and areas of focus. I learned quite a bit about the things that Tolkien considered the most important in his writing through the reading about and viewing of his artwork. I would seriously recommend this book to anyone who is either casually or academically interested in Tolkien's works.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    It feels like in our culture there is a need to divide artists solely into one camp. An artist cannot write, a writer cannot be a singer, a chef cannot also be a sculptor, and so on until the examples pile up. Yet this does artists disservice because it limits their capacity for expression one sole means, and as Wayne G. Hammond demonstrates in this book the mettle of an artist is made in the way they express themselves, not solely in the single format they traditionally do it. J.R.R. Tolkien has It feels like in our culture there is a need to divide artists solely into one camp. An artist cannot write, a writer cannot be a singer, a chef cannot also be a sculptor, and so on until the examples pile up. Yet this does artists disservice because it limits their capacity for expression one sole means, and as Wayne G. Hammond demonstrates in this book the mettle of an artist is made in the way they express themselves, not solely in the single format they traditionally do it. J.R.R. Tolkien has established a modern aesthetic and mythos through his writing, he's created his own language to accompany this universe, but what sometimes gets forgotten is that the man could also draw. This book was a eye opening experience because, through a careful study of his artwork over the course of his entire life, one can observe how his art served not only as a companion to his writing, but also as a kind of collaborative function. Whether it was his maps, his landscapes, or his interiors of the great halls, Tolkien managed to create Middle Earth as a functioning reality. Hammond shows his reader how each of Tolkien's drawings helped establish his aesthetic, but also how it contributed to the larger creation of Middle Earth and the accompanying mythos. And just so it's clear, this is an art book dedicated to the art it's trying to bring attention to. Almost every page of this book contains work by Tolkien, accompanied with dates, bibliographic information, and accompanying analysis of the artists growing talent. This is a book dedicated to Tolkien's visual style and reveals that the man was not only a great writer, but also an accomplished artist who experimented with line, texture, color, and form over a long life of fruitful productivity. Of course I'm biased. I love Lord of the Rings. But as a writer and as an artist, I appreciated the role this book had in further rekindling my love for Tolkien. This book is beautiful from the beginning to the very end and the reader would be foolish not to take the opportunity to read this work. Mountains, Eagles, dragons, rivers, and even simple patterns are enough to be reminded that Tolkien was never just one thing. Like any true artist, the man contained multitudes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ionson

    This is not one of those compilations of pictures with some perfunctory text to pass off as a "book." The writers offer some great information and insights regarding JRRT as a visionary. I highly recommend this. This is not one of those compilations of pictures with some perfunctory text to pass off as a "book." The writers offer some great information and insights regarding JRRT as a visionary. I highly recommend this.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    (4.5 stars) I loved gaining this insight into Tolkien's illustrations and artwork--as well as their context. I'd love to own this book for future reference. Tolkien was one seriously talented man. (4.5 stars) I loved gaining this insight into Tolkien's illustrations and artwork--as well as their context. I'd love to own this book for future reference. Tolkien was one seriously talented man.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathrin

    This book has a wealth of beautiful drawings and paintings, accompanied by well-written analysis and background information. There's also sketches, patterns and doodles, anecdotes etc. I loved it. This book has a wealth of beautiful drawings and paintings, accompanied by well-written analysis and background information. There's also sketches, patterns and doodles, anecdotes etc. I loved it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Estrella

    Of course I am biased when it comes down to anything by/about Tolkien, but this was very impressive and beautiful.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lino Matteo

    J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull 1995 This is a book that opens many windows into the mind, work and art of Tolkien. It helps address how he went about his craft of revealing the world of and around Middle-Earth. That I like Tolkien as a writer is no secret to those that know me. Certain people even had to pass a Tolkien test before they were allowed into the family. Others protested that we took them out of school to catch LOTR movies at their initial matine J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull 1995 This is a book that opens many windows into the mind, work and art of Tolkien. It helps address how he went about his craft of revealing the world of and around Middle-Earth. That I like Tolkien as a writer is no secret to those that know me. Certain people even had to pass a Tolkien test before they were allowed into the family. Others protested that we took them out of school to catch LOTR movies at their initial matinees. However, when the authors say that Tolkien’s art matched his writing - well that is a little much for me. What I will agree is that Tolkien’s imagination was only surpassed by Tolkien. His art – whether in words or in illustration was almost ‘historical’ in depth and complexity. I think the man must have been of the same vein. It was a fun sojourn into the world of Tolkien – I acquired this book long ago, but only really read it recently. Life is like that. It is a good companion. I think that I will have to revisit The Hobbit soon and some of the other tales and essays that Tolkien wrote and some of the other works that influenced him. Who wants to know about the Blue and Red Wizards? Lino Matteo ©™ Twitter @Lino_Matteo PS: This is another in my series of Sunday Thoughts, it is a peak into the doings of a great creative mind! https://wordpress.com/post/linomatteo...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nidah (SleepDreamWrite)

    This was really good.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Mccaskell

    An interesting look at Tolkien's art, though the layout is a bit haphazard at times. An interesting look at Tolkien's art, though the layout is a bit haphazard at times.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Beautiful artwork/illustrations paired with insightful analysis. I enjoyed seeing the stages of his work, especially when compared with the stages of his tales and the additional insights found in his letters. Lovely. I don't typically seek out or enjoy books about artwork, but in this case it certainly added to my understanding and view of Middle Earth and allowed me to see Tolkien's other works. I gleamed from this that it is of utmost importance to see it as it comes to your mind,and I enjo Beautiful artwork/illustrations paired with insightful analysis. I enjoyed seeing the stages of his work, especially when compared with the stages of his tales and the additional insights found in his letters. Lovely. I don't typically seek out or enjoy books about artwork, but in this case it certainly added to my understanding and view of Middle Earth and allowed me to see Tolkien's other works. I gleamed from this that it is of utmost importance to see it as it comes to your mind,and I enjoyed his renditions (which at times were not much different than I originally imagined).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marilou

    I am fascinated by Tolkien's watercolour artwork and it is well featured in this book. I learned a lot about his early works and his process of illustrating The Hobbit. The authors emphasize the fact that Tolkien was insecure about his own work. Some people criticized his illustrations of The Hobbit for being imperfect. This is what makes them interesting in my opinion. I was disappointed to learn that he stopped making watercolour artwork after this project. I wished to see more of it. I am fascinated by Tolkien's watercolour artwork and it is well featured in this book. I learned a lot about his early works and his process of illustrating The Hobbit. The authors emphasize the fact that Tolkien was insecure about his own work. Some people criticized his illustrations of The Hobbit for being imperfect. This is what makes them interesting in my opinion. I was disappointed to learn that he stopped making watercolour artwork after this project. I wished to see more of it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Grooms

    Fantastic collection of Tolkien's artwork. His writing deservedly gets the lion's share of praise and attention, but the man was not only immensely talented as an artist, but accomplished. Some of his artwork is absolutely gorgeous, and deserves a lot more attention both on its own merit and for its role in creating his written works. Fantastic collection of Tolkien's artwork. His writing deservedly gets the lion's share of praise and attention, but the man was not only immensely talented as an artist, but accomplished. Some of his artwork is absolutely gorgeous, and deserves a lot more attention both on its own merit and for its role in creating his written works.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marquise

    Lovely collection of Tolkien's artworks. I knew he'd done some drawings for his fantasy books, but didn't know that he had produced such a large body of paintings and drawings. And he's good at it, too. Lovely collection of Tolkien's artworks. I knew he'd done some drawings for his fantasy books, but didn't know that he had produced such a large body of paintings and drawings. And he's good at it, too.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Gorgeous book, a must for any Tolkien fan wanting more insight into the Professor’s creations. My only niggle is the layout of the illustrations- many times the text discussing a painting was several pages away from the plate with the painting, necessitating much flipping around.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    As a lifelong Tolkien fan, I was excited to start this book and I ended up finding it very informative. I knew a little about his illustrations for The Hobbit beforehand but not very much about his early work, so there was quite a bit that was new to me. It was especially interesting to see how Tolkien the artist influenced Tolkien the writer and vice versa. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to delve in deeper into how Middle-earth came to be. As a lifelong Tolkien fan, I was excited to start this book and I ended up finding it very informative. I knew a little about his illustrations for The Hobbit beforehand but not very much about his early work, so there was quite a bit that was new to me. It was especially interesting to see how Tolkien the artist influenced Tolkien the writer and vice versa. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to delve in deeper into how Middle-earth came to be.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    I honestly had no idea that Tolkien had illustrated his own books, let alone that he created other art as well. So much of it is really good too! I was very impressed. I also appreciated that the book included unfinished pieces and drafts he did which showed his creative process. I would encourage all Tolkien fans to at least flip through the pictures.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ancillar

    Wow. This is such a stupendous improvement over "Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien" that I had to go back and downgrade the latter to a three. Selection, rendering quality, number of works selected for inclusion: everything is vastly better. (Not to mention the trove of careful scholarly commentary alongside the images.) If you want an original Tolkien art book, this is the one to get. Wow. This is such a stupendous improvement over "Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien" that I had to go back and downgrade the latter to a three. Selection, rendering quality, number of works selected for inclusion: everything is vastly better. (Not to mention the trove of careful scholarly commentary alongside the images.) If you want an original Tolkien art book, this is the one to get.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Barron Dalton

    Tolkien was a multi-talented artistic/linguistic master mind. This collection of his art work is truly excellent. These are seldom seen images of the visual concepts Tolkien had in mind. I found his work to be inspirational for my own art work. I have referenced this book many times.

  21. 4 out of 5

    GLENN

    I never appreciated Tolkien as an artist before. This book showcases some of his amazing illustrations for Middle Earth, as well as scenes from his childhood. It traces his development from childhood all the way into retirement. The heraldic devises are especially beautiful.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    A very nice set of illustrations by Tolkien on many subjects. The accompanying comments are for the most part helpful.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Beautiful, interesting, and indispensable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathrin

    Absolutely amazing!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Beautiful and inspiring work. An authentic look into the visions of a literary master. A must-have for the Tolkien aficionado.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stas

    Nice to flip through.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jared Cook

    This was a fascinating look at another side of one of ym favorite authors (okay, fine, my favorite author). It is clear from Tolkien's other works that while he was a master of text, he always paid very close attention to images as well, which he considered to be an essential part of the story. From his maps, to the doors of Durin, to the Book of Mazarbul, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings would just not be the same story without the images. The dust jackets that he designed are another examp This was a fascinating look at another side of one of ym favorite authors (okay, fine, my favorite author). It is clear from Tolkien's other works that while he was a master of text, he always paid very close attention to images as well, which he considered to be an essential part of the story. From his maps, to the doors of Durin, to the Book of Mazarbul, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings would just not be the same story without the images. The dust jackets that he designed are another example (not to mention the facsimiles of runes and Feanorian script, which straddle the line between image and text, and have something interesting to say about the relationship between the two). And he didn't just doodle, either. He used pen and ink, inkwash, watercolor, and "chalk" (colored pencil") and apparently spent a significant amount of time developing his talent, even though he never drew or painted as a professional. One thing that I found fascinating was a vague similarity in style and in tone to another favorite author/artist, William Blake. While Tolkien never attempted to be an artist like Blake, it is clear that his pictures were an important part of his story, not wholly severable from the text. And it was clear that at least in some places, attempts to draw scenes or geography led to revisions in the text itself, illustrating the complex relationship between composition and illustration. Tolkien appears to have experimented slightly with various styles, but the predominating tone is one of a talented but self-taught amateur, with a penchant for stylized naturalism, brought to life by a rustic, studied but untaught hand with one foot firmly the art nouveau style and the other in the arts-and-crafts world. Similar to Blake's work, my reaction is a feeling that sometimes you are looking at a window into an untrammelled mind's imagination, sometimes at something like a medieval illuminated manuscript, sometimes a realistic and naturalistic snapshot of a scene, and sometimes at a battle plan by a soldier in the trenches. Most often it is a sense of preserving the imaginative freedom of childhood, but bringing it to life through talented and practiced, though unschooled and unashamed adult craftsmanship. It is almost as if the art itself reflects the author's attitude that fairy stories, though considered childish, deal with the very fiber of life, and demand to be taken seriously, at least as seriously as everyday life does. The images are well-presented, many in full color, though I wished that they could have all been full-size. They are arranged first topically and second roughly chronologically Overall well worth looking through.

  28. 5 out of 5

    J.souza

    This book shows a side of Tolkien- the legendary writer of "The Lord Of The Rings" and other great books- that not many people, even amongst the die hard fans, know of: the artist. The authors, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull did an amazing research, making this book not only one of pictures but a kind of biography. The book contains- as it says in the back cover- 200 pieces of art made by Tolkien, with paintings, drawings and sketches, in colour and black and white, some of which became a e This book shows a side of Tolkien- the legendary writer of "The Lord Of The Rings" and other great books- that not many people, even amongst the die hard fans, know of: the artist. The authors, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull did an amazing research, making this book not only one of pictures but a kind of biography. The book contains- as it says in the back cover- 200 pieces of art made by Tolkien, with paintings, drawings and sketches, in colour and black and white, some of which became a extention of his writing. The book is divided into 7 chapters: "Early Work", "Visions, Myths, and Legends", "Art For Children", "The Hobbit", "The Lord of The Rings", "Pattern and Devices" and "Appendix on Calligraphy". In "Early Work" we see his firsts attempts on drawing. Here we have mostly landscapes and portraits of common people from his surroundings. In "Visions, Myths, and Legends" we beguin to see the kind of imagery that would perpetuate the minds of the fans, like mages and beautiful lands with strange names- now very different from his early landscapes-. "Art For Children" is basically from the christmas cards that he made to his children as "Father Christmas", with already a lot of imagination and mythology in it. Besides that we see sketches for "Roverandom", the book he wrote for one of his children when he lost his favourite toy. Than we get to "Hobbit" and in here you'll see that much of the designs from the books as the aesthetic of the movies, were all from the mind of Tolkien. In here we have maps of Middle-Earth, the firsts sketches of Hobbiton- until it's final version in watercolour-, the landscape of Rivendell -home of the elves-, and a beautiful watercolour of the dragon Smaug, besides other things. In "The Lord Of The Rings", as in the chapter "Hobbit" we see a lot of concept art that was later used in books and the movies. Including the many sketches for the design of the "Doors Of Durin", and bookcovers for each book of the trilogy. In "Patterns and Devices" we see a lot of tapestry drawings and mandala-type designs that represents races and characters from his books. And finally, in "Appendix on Calligraphy" we get to see some of his typographic studies and a hole text writen in his famous elvish lettering: Tengwar. This is a must have for every big fan of Tolkien! You'll get to know him as a great artist besides a great writer.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jaimie

    Even though the authors of this book claim to have only presented a collection of a mere few hundred of J.R.R. Tolkien's art works I think that they did a marvelous job showing the range and breadth of his skills and subjects. They focused less on the published pieces (presumably because we can see them elsewhere) than on preliminary sketches, pieces not related to specific Middle Earth writings, and ephemera, which really presented a good view of Tolkien's evolution as an artist. Much of his im Even though the authors of this book claim to have only presented a collection of a mere few hundred of J.R.R. Tolkien's art works I think that they did a marvelous job showing the range and breadth of his skills and subjects. They focused less on the published pieces (presumably because we can see them elsewhere) than on preliminary sketches, pieces not related to specific Middle Earth writings, and ephemera, which really presented a good view of Tolkien's evolution as an artist. Much of his imagery feeds into the Middle Earth mythos later on (especially in regards to nature scenery), so seeing this source material and having it discussed as part of the larger artistic process sets the stage for researchers, Tolkien-enthosiasts, and other artists/writers. The most illuminating topic of this book for me is the discussion of Tolkien's influence on the design process for the appreance for his books. Not only did he have strong opinions on everything from fonts to shades of colour, but he produced many templates (to be improved upon by other artists, as he humbly felt that he had little talent in this area). Many of these designs have obvious flaws, but many of his ideas and designs were actually used on the initial publications and more still have been used on modern editions!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Beautiful reproductions of Tolkien's artwork, from his earliest surviving works to his last. Although many of the images have been reproduced in a variety of other books, many more are presented for the first time (when originally published). Tolkien was typically dismissive of his ability as an artist, and whilst he is sometimes correct in that self-evaluation, to the appreciative reader of his stories, to have the visual interpretations of these imagined worlds from the hand of the mind that fa Beautiful reproductions of Tolkien's artwork, from his earliest surviving works to his last. Although many of the images have been reproduced in a variety of other books, many more are presented for the first time (when originally published). Tolkien was typically dismissive of his ability as an artist, and whilst he is sometimes correct in that self-evaluation, to the appreciative reader of his stories, to have the visual interpretations of these imagined worlds from the hand of the mind that fashioned them is an immeasurable gift. How fortunate we are that his evident delight in the creation of his artworks overcame his too critical judgement. Hammond's and Scull's text is scholarly, but not dry, and gives context to Tolkien's art that is sure to interest (if not delight) any Tolkienista.

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