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Old 12-19-2010, 07:46 AM   #1
Pitchwife
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Illustrations of Tolkien before his time

This thread takes its inspiration from a remarkable little incident Tolkien reported in one of his letters:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter 328
A few years ago I was visited in Oxford by a man whose name I have forgotten (though I believe he was well-known). He had been much struck by the curious way in which many old pictures seemed to him to have been designed to illustrate The Lord of the Rings long before its time. He brought one or two reproductions. I think he wanted at first simply to discover whether my imagination had fed on pictures, as it clearly had by certain kinds of literature and languages. When it became obvious that, unless I was a liar, I had never seen the pictures before and was not well acquainted with pictorial Art, he fell silent. I became aware that he was looking fixedly at me. Suddenly he said: 'Of course you don't suppose, do you, that you wrote all that book yourself?'
(bolding mine)

Nowadays, of course, Tolkien has been illustrated (with varying success) by hundreds of artists, but I wonder which "old pictures" the unnamed visitor could have been thinking of. We'll never know, of course, but I can think of some pre-Tolkien paintings which I somehow associate with LotR myself, and I suppose you may have one or the other in your minds as well.

So, my question is: Are there any works of art, ancient or modern, famous or obscure, which seem to you to illustrate scenes from Tolkien's works without being meant to, or which otherwise strike you as 'Tolkienish' in style, spirit or subject matter?

This is not about whether the Prof was in fact inspired by those works, so you can be as subjective as you like. To give two examples of the kind of thing I'm looking for:

The Battle of Alexander at Issus
by Albrecht Altdorfer, aka The Battle of the Pelennor Fields:



The city/fortress in the background doesn't look too much like Minas Tirith, and the lie of the land doesn't quite fit either, but here are the Rohirrim charging at the Haradrim forces, and the panoramic view gives the battle a feel of cosmic relevance, like the fate of all Middle-earth is at stake.

The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velazquez, aka The Steward and the King:



Never mind the baroque costumes - what I see here is Faramir, last Steward of Gondor, surrendering his office, and Aragorn replying: "That office is not ended, and it shall by thine and thy heirs' as long as my line shall last." Just imagine Gandalf and our four Hobbits among the bystanders.

(For some hilarious examples with a humorous twist, see this site, but I'm actually quite serious about this!)
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Old 12-19-2010, 09:29 AM   #2
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Henri Rousseau "Eclaireurs attaques par un tigre" aka Huan and Carcharot's fight

Pretend that the tiget is a wolf, and the horse (is it a horse?) is a dog. It all works! And you can even see Beren lying there
Edit: sorry, I can't post the actual image for some reason.
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Old 12-19-2010, 04:48 PM   #3
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Intriguing choice, G55! It doesn't look too good for Huan and Beren, which is quite fitting, since both of them died in that fight; and the tiger has that crazy stare, just like Carcharoth driven mad by the Silmaril.
Interesting parallel, too: Both Tolkien and Rousseau were non-professional artists (one as a writer, the other as a painter) whose works breathe an atmosphere of dreamlike enchantment; both were ridiculed by academic critics during most of their lifetime, but were widely recognized and became very influential later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Edit: sorry, I can't post the actual image for some reason.
It took me quite a while to figure this out myself. Try this:
1. Right-click on the picture you'd like to post and select 'copy picture address' (or whatever it's called in English).
2. Go to your post window, click on the 'Insert Image' icon above the text box (the one that looks like a postcard of the pyramids, left of the 'Quote' Icon), and paste the URL of your pic into the pop-up window.
That worked for me.
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Old 12-19-2010, 05:32 PM   #4
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That's what I did, but the picture still didn't show up. My computer just doesn't like me, that's all!
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Old 12-19-2010, 07:25 PM   #5
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From Gandalf's account of what happened on Celebdil as it appears in The White Rider, (sans the smoke, vapor and ice like rain and with an excess of balrogs) .


The Torment of Saint Anthony by Michelangelo, painted after the engraving by Martin Schongauer.

Another work that shouts Gandalf...

Saint Anthony by Albrecht Durer
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Old 12-23-2010, 11:36 AM   #6
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Leaf Online art gallery of works 'inspired' by Tolkien

People on this thread might be amused to look at this link:

http://flyingmoose.org/tolksarc/gallery/gallery.htm

It's an online art gallery of familiar works, but which are said to be specifically inspired by Tolkien!
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Old 12-23-2010, 12:38 PM   #7
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This picture, "The Joy of Life" by Henry Matisse, clearly illustrates the Waters of Awakening. It's a bit inappropriate, but let's blame it on Matisse.
Well, you see people getting up, and there's water in the background, and the people aren't really...*whats-the-right-word*...civilized? - *nah, bad word*
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Old 02-11-2011, 05:54 PM   #8
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Lawren Harris' "Maligne Lake, aka the Calacirya
"

Arthur Lismer's "Sunlight in a Wood", aka the March of the Ents
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Old 02-11-2011, 06:11 PM   #9
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Galadriel55, you and I are going to have to meet some day at the McMichael Gallery.

Years ago I posted some pictures of medieval battles. I shall go off and attempt to find them so I can add a link here.

EDIT:

Yes, I have just accomplished something with the search function here. Here's a link to the pictue (just one), in a discussion of Book 5, Chapter 6 Bruegel battlefield.

The interesting point here is that the picture has no central focus. I wonder if Tolkien's many chapters which repeat events occuring at the same time but in different places is something of an attempt to present this idea of art without one central perspective.
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Old 02-15-2011, 04:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
The interesting point here is that the picture has no central focus. I wonder if Tolkien's many chapters which repeat events occuring at the same time but in different places is something of an attempt to present this idea of art without one central perspective.
Interesting point indeed, Bb. The other day I was talking to a colleague who has seen the movies and has just begun reading LotR the book; she didn't like PJ's indulging in battle scenes, and I tried to explain to her how Tolkien handles those quite differently, focussing on many single scenes describing the deeds and experiences of individual characters rather than panoramic views of hundreds of anonymous warriors hewing away at each other. So actually my Altdorfer battle above corresponds better to the cinematic version, while your Bruegel is truer to the spirit of Tolkien!

Thanks everybody for your responses so far, it's fascinating to see what resonates visually (sorry for the awkward metaphor) with Tolkien for each of you!
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Old 08-20-2011, 03:45 PM   #11
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Continuing with the Group of Seven, A. Y. Jackson's The Brown Lands:



"Wilderness Deese Bay"

Tom Thompson's Death of the Two Trees



"Night"
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Old 01-06-2012, 10:24 AM   #12
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Barad Dur.

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Old 01-06-2012, 06:56 PM   #13
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The Baleful Head, or is it The Mirror Of Galadriel?

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Old 01-06-2012, 07:03 PM   #14
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The Hill?

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Old 01-06-2012, 09:38 PM   #15
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The Baleful Head, or is it The Mirror Of Galadriel?

Ah, the hyphenated Pre-Raphealite painter whose name always escapes me! I just came across his "Beguiling of Merlin" as I was researching something completely different.
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Old 01-08-2012, 07:55 AM   #16
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Ah, the hyphenated Pre-Raphealite painter whose name always escapes me! I just came across his "Beguiling of Merlin" as I was researching something completely different.
Burne-Jones! I was naughty not to credit these artworks

The other one is by Samuel Palmer.

I'd like to think that The Baleful Head is one of the paintings that actually did influence Tolkien as he was quite a fan of the pre-Raphaelites and used to go to Birmingham art gallery quite a lot (where they have a good collection), but looking it up, this one is displayed in a gallery in Stuttgart, and I doubt it would have been sold by Birmingham art gallery since Tolkien's youth (most public art collections are held in trust).
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Old 09-10-2012, 03:21 PM   #17
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Nicholas Roerich (1930) - Totally Vale of Erech.



And the same artist, maybe a bit metaphorically...



"A sign that Gandalf was here on October the third: that is three days ago now. Not alone: Shadowfax was with him..."
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Old 09-10-2012, 04:12 PM   #18
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Starry night by van gogh (sp?)? hahahahahaha!
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Old 09-11-2012, 10:38 PM   #19
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Not visual, but musical: the soundtrack to the passage through Moria was written by Rachmaninoff, his Prelude in G Minor op. 23 no. 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...v=CpdoYLMgVfM#!
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Old 09-12-2012, 05:31 AM   #20
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Quote:
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Not visual, but musical: the soundtrack to the passage through Moria was written by Rachmaninoff, his Prelude in G Minor op. 23 no. 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...v=CpdoYLMgVfM#!
Pssssssst..... Tolkienish music goes here.
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Old 07-18-2017, 02:49 PM   #21
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I just came across this while browsing some old threads and was delighted by Legate bringing up Nicholas Roerich above, since I had just discovered and fallen in love with Roerich's art at the time I started this thread. For a while I had several of his paintings rotating as wallpapers on my computer, and many of them have struck me as rather Tolkienish, such as this:



Bogatyrs Woke Up, or The Awakening of the Dwarves?
(Yes I know, they didn't all wake up in the same place, did they, but this just screams DWARVES! to me.)

or this:



Boris and Gleb, aka Alatar and Pallando?
(Cloaks are the wrong colour, but hey, there's enough blue in the picture.)

Others remind me of Tolkien in more subtle ways, more in their technique than their subject matter. One thing I really love about Roerich's art is his way of painting clear light and luminous colours, which IMHO is rivalled by few painters if any, and for me this resonates somewhat obliquely but very strongly with Tolkien's myth of the Two Trees and of a light that is older and holier than that which we perceive in these later ages. It can be guessed in the pictures Legate linked, but it's most obvious in his Himalaya landscapes or a work like this:



(Terra Slavonica, 1943)
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