Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Gandalf's Garden"

So, while getting together some of my recent Tolkien books to find places for them among my overfull shelves, I noticed something in the Richard Rudgley book (PAGAN RESURRECTION) I'd overlooked: three Tolkien-related photos.

The first shows Tolkien in his study (at Merton, I assume).

The second shows an eight-story-high poster of Ian McKellan as Gandalf, hanging from the outside of a New Zealand post office.

The third, and most interesting of all, shows the storefront of London's infamous GANDALF'S GARDEN (described in the text as a "hippy cafe" and yoga center) -- I've heard about the magazine of the same name associated with this group, but hadn't known much about the associated store, which I'd vaguely assumed was a bookstore/head shop. Apparently no. Too bad the image is in black and white, since it's obviously a colourful spread.

And, as long as I'm commenting on the book's illos, I shd have mentioned the oddest one here:* what is, according to its caption, Rudolf Steiner's dust jacket design for Bulwer-Lytton's THE COMING RACE. I had no idea Steiner was an artist, as well as a world-class occultist. Given that Rudgley dates the drawing "c.1923", it must have been done at the v. end of Steiner's life. Interesting!


*and yes, that does include the photo of a nudist neopagan ceremony from the 'twenties. ick!


Ardamir said...

Hi John, could describe the photo of Tolkien further? Is it a rare photo?

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Ardamir

It's not a common photo, but this isn't the first time I've seen it either. However, thanks to Dr. Blackwelder's compendium TOLKIEN PORTRAITURE (the 1993 edition), in which he arranged all photocopies of all images of Tolkien he cd find, I've now run it down.

Dr. Blackwelder labels this image PL-24, meaning it's the twenty-fourth image showing Tolkien from the left. He dates it to 1971 but doesn't give any place of publication (unusually for him). However, the version he reproduces is slightly fuller than the one Rudgley uses (wh. must have been slightly cropped to focus on T. himself, leaving out some of the room). Blackwelder also includes the caption that had appeared under the photo, which reads as follows:

"J. R. R. Tolkien photographed in his study in Merton College, Oxford, where he moved after the death of his wife in 19[71*]
Tolkien was a distinguished scholar, as well as the author of two of the most popular novels of the century."

*the edge is trimmed off, so the caption's lost the last two digits of the date

So, it seems I'm right in place it at Merton, but quite wrong in having assumed it was taken between 1945 and 1959; instead, it's one of those taken in the final two years of his life and may be the only picture I've seen of him in his final home.

Rudgley, unfortunately, offers little help in identifying its place of first publication; on his picture credits page he simply credits all three Tolkien images to "Getty Images".

Sorry if this isn't much help in helping you find a copy. I wish someone cd at some point take up Dr. Blackwelder's project, flesh it out some, and actually see it into print -- but the permissions wd no doubt be horrible!


P.S.: As for my own favorite picture of Tolkien, it's definitely the white hat photo from 1963, which first appeared in GRIGSON'S CONCISE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MODERN WORLD LITERATURE -- a reference book I bought six years ago just to get this portrait. I'd have loved to have included it in MR. BAGGINS, but it was crowded out by images of Tolkien's own artwork, which is just the way he wd have wanted it.

Ardamir said...

Thanks for letting me/us know about Blackwelder's book. I hadn't heard about it before.