Sunday, April 22, 2012

Illustrating the Hobbit

So, one of the great things about being a guest of honor at the recent LEOCON I in Commerce, Texas was that I got to attend the presentations of my fellow speakers, and see Doug Anderson's slide-show* of HOBBIT art. I'd seen this twice before, most recently when the second edition of his superb ANNOTATED HOBBIT came out in 2002. But it's an ever-evolving presentation: there were pieces he showed that were new to me, as well as old ones I'd forgotten and many more I'm simply happy to see again.

One of the newer features was the inclusion of Maurice Sendak's sample illustration from the mid-sixties, at a point when he was mooted to produce an illustrated edition (that ultimately came to naught, aside from this one piece),** and he also mentioned a Frazetta HOBBIT piece I hadn't heard of before.*** It's fascinating to see different artists' interpretations, yet I agree with Doug that Tolkien himself is the best illustrator of his own works.

Afterwards, I had a question. If you could have anyone illustrate THE HOBBIT, who would it be? It has to be an artist who was actually alive at the time and theoretically could have done the job -- i.e., not Tenniel or Van Gough, who both died long before the book was published, but someone like Mucha (d.1939) or B. Potter (d. 1943) wd be fair game.

Doug, when I put the query to him, had an inspired choice: S. H. Sime doing Mirkwood. I can't compete with that choice, but after mulling if over a while I opted for Edward Gorey as someone who wd do an interesting, distinctive, and yet somehow possibly get-it-right set of illustrations. As a back-up, it'd have been fun to see what Tolkien's world wd have looked like as illustrated by Hugh Lofting.

So, if you cd pick anyone to illustrate THE HOBBIT, who wd it be?

--John R.

*although, as I think he observed in these days of no more actual slides, it'd probably more properly be called 'a multi-media presentation'. For me, who still dials a phone, 'slide show' will still do.

**cf. my earlier blog post about this one,

***here's the link to a handful of Frazetta Tolkien designs; I think he showed us the one of Gollum paddling his boat with his great big-toed feet.

I'm pretty sure I've seen at least one more years back at The Tolkien Shop's online site, but it was of Gandalf & the Three Walkers meeting with King Theoden at Edoras.


Wurmbrand said...

If I were picking an illustrator other than Tolkien to illustrate The Hobbit, I suppose I'd go with Pauline Baynes, but she seems an obvious choice. So I will nominate Denys Watkins-Pitchford ("BB"). His scratchboard pictures for The Little Grey Men and other books show a great feeling for nature, and it's that side of The Hobbit that I would like to see highlighted -- rather than artist's renderings of particular scenes. The reader can visualize those; but many readers, especially younger ones, have dreadfully minimal experience of the outdoors and need to have their imaginations awakened to nature.

Brer said...

Frazetta has Eowyn show a little more cheek than one usually associates with Middle Earth; who wouldn't spot her as a woman?

Arthur Rackham (d. 1939) squeaks under the time limit, and was an artist Tolkien himself admired.

David Bratman said...

Inga Moore.