J.R.R.Tolkien ~ Biography ~ The Inklings ~ Tolkien the Artist ~ Tolkien’s Passing ~ Tolkien’s Grave ~ Beren and Lúthien
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J.R.R. Tolkien ~ Art and Calligraphy
“He is a great enough magician to tap our most common nightmares,
daydreams and twilight fancies, but he never invented them either: he found them a place to live,
a green alternative to each day’s madness here in a poisoned world. We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers,
thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses. Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams.”
Peter S. Beagle ~ The Tolkien Reader
Tolkien’s writing, artwork, symbols and calligraphy were all part of his creative expression as author and artist. The visual imagery he created had a whimsical dreaming quality that can also be found in his written words, especially The Hobbit. The paintings created for The Lord of the Rings such as ‘Barad-dûr’ and ‘The West Gate of Moria’ have a deeper more profound feel to them, that reflects his writing.
For me the visual elements that Professor Tolkien added in his books, seem such an integral part of the experience. The maps, the runes, the illustrations of secret doors, the elvish script found on the One Ring of Power… all helped to bring Tolkien’s vision to life. Sitting on a rainy day, curled up in front of a fire with one of Tolkien’s books, you really get a sense that you just might be reading from the real Red Book of Westmarch… perhaps the very one written by the hands of Bilbo and Frodo!
Professor Tolkien is best know for his writings of course, but he was also an accomplished illustrator and calligrapher, who wanted to enhance the world he was creating with a visual elements that would take his writing to greater heights. As his writings became more well known, so did his artwork, as fans clamored for more from their favorite author.
Below is a video that showcases the artwork Tolkien created for his children as they were growing up. From the years 1920 through 1942, he would send letters from Father Christmas to his children, detailing the antics of the North Polar Bear and his two sidekick cubs, Paksu and Valkotukka, who continually gave Father Christmas one headache after another. There were also the occasional battles with warring goblins, who lived in caves under the North Pole.
Professor Tolkien honed his artistic skills with expressive line drawings and watercolor paintings to illustrate the letters, even drawing on the envelopes and designing custom made stamps! There is a wonderful collection of these letters assembled in Letters from Father Christmas. A must have for any Tolkien fan!
Growing up, one of my favorite treats at Christmas was finding my yearly Tolkien Calendar under the tree, which often featured the artwork of Professor Tolkien. If you are interested in learning more about the genesis of Tolkien’s artwork, there is no better resource then the illustrated book J.R.R.Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. This definitive volume covers the length and breath of Tolkien’s art over the course of his life.
Below we have just a few of his prolific creations. First we take a look at his paintings and illustrations in full color, followed by a selection of his symbols and calligraphy.