Fri
Dec 7 2012 11:00am

Picturing The Hobbit

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

With Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit a week away, the world is in a three-foot-high frenzy. Of course, The Hobbit has been inspiring artists and readers for generations. Artwise, I’ve always had a soft spot for The Hobbit; I love that it lends itself equally well to delightful and weighty interpretations. Below, let’s take a look at how just a few of the unofficial band of “Tolkien artists” have approached Bilbo’s story.

Above, The Battle of Five Armies by Justin Gerard.

Alan Lee’s goblin king: this whole post could be full of Lee’s work. He’s truly one of the best of our contemporary painters. You’ll see that I restricted myself to just three throughout the post...

 

Queer Lodgings, part of Sam Bosma’s great series of Hobbit paintings: “I like the eagles a lot. They only do good in the stories but Tolkien is very careful to not make them cute. They are still giant raptors that steal livestock and might hunger for a hobbit-sized snack at any time.”

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Gollum, from Swedish author and illustrator Inger Edelfeldt.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Tim Kirk captures The Riddle Game...

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Greg and Tim Hildebrandt made their careers painting Tolkien’s world: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Darrell K. Sweet’s eagle’s nest. Donato Giancola (who now owns this painting) often credits Darrell with helping to ignite a life-long love of Tolkien’s work in him.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Barrels Out of Bond: Ted Nasmith’s Barrel Rider.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Donato Giancola’s “expulsion from paradise” take on The Hobbit.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

J. R. R. Tolkien’s own drawing of The Hobbit landscape.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Roger Garland, with a relaxed Gandalf.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Justin Gerard, who said about painting The Hobbit, “I like drawing monsters that are just a little bit human, and who have personalities that you might recognize in people you’ve encountered in your own adventures, and The Hobbit has the very best of these.”

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Peter Konig: concept art for Smaug, back when Guillermo del Toro was working on the movie.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

The whole story told in the round, by Ian Escobar Loos.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Riddles in the Dark: David Wyatt did a series of great ink drawings for the book’s chapter heads.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

David T. Wenzel: “Chip the glasses and crack the plates! / Blunt the knives and bend the forks! / That's what Bilbo Baggins hates.“

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Cory Godbey’s simple yet heroic Bilbo.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Iain McCaig, the man who invented Darth Maul, with a fierce Gandalf.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Super-cute Bilbo and Gandalf by António Quadros.
 

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Greg and Tim Hildebrandt and An Unexpected Party.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Eric Fraser:”Farewell!” they cried. “wherever you fare, till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!”

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Michael Hague: Rescued From Wolves.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Sam Bosma: The Dwarves of yore made mighty spells / while hammers fell like ringing bells / in places deep, where dark things sleep / in hollow halls beneath the fells.”

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

From German illustrator Klaus Ensikat:

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

The Rankin/Bass animated Hobbit....one of my most favorite movies as a kid. (And read-along record album.)

 

A battle scene by Matthew Stewart:

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Mikhail Belomlinsky’s scratchboard Hobbitses.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

John Howe—famous, of course, for being the lead artist on the Peter Jackson movies—has a long and wonderful history of painting Middle-earth.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Jonny Hodgson’s painting based largely on Tolkien’s Smaug graphic (seen at the end of this post.)

 

The legendary Frank Frazetta: “Feeling tricksy, my precious?

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

And a pen-and-ink, also from Frank Frazetta.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Randy Berrett, now working his magic at Pixar. 

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Acclaimed Dutch artist Cor Blok:

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

A drunken Galion from I. Hmielnickij.

 

Maurice Sendak was briefly assigned The Hobbit. Sadly, I don’t think the project got any further than this one image.

 

Finland’s national treasure, Tove Jansson (of Moomin fame) did a wonderful series of Hobbit drawings. You can see them all here.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

John Howe, Gandalf in Hobbiton

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Chris Rahn: Over Hill and Under Hill

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Ted Nasmith, particularly good at capturing the landscape of Middle-earth.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

One more from the Rankin/Bass movie, because I love it so.

 

Klaus Ensikat, for the second German edition of The Hobbit:

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

Another from Michael Hague:

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

As I mentioned, this whole post could be full of Alan Lee; here are two more because I couldn’t resist:

 

 

David Wyatt’s crafty Smaug:

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

 

...and it seemed fitting to end on J. R. R. Tolkien’s own cover for The Hobbit, There and Back Again.

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades

The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades


Irene Gallo is the Art Director of Tor Books.

33 comments
S Cooper
2. SPC
I adore the look on Smaug's face in Belomlinsky's picture. Such disbelief! Loos' story-picture is amazing, too! Thanks for this collection.
Kate Nepveu
3. katenepveu
All of these are great, but man, having re-read "Riddles in the Dark" last night, that chapter head gave me chills.
DonatoArts
4. DonatoArts
Thanks for sharing all those pictures Irene. Obviously many artists I recognized, but quite a few new ones as well! Such a pleasure to see new voices adding to the chorus of artistic interpretations of Middle-earth. Looking forward to yet another voice in the Peter Jackson film!
Mark Krug
5. Zapho
Inger Edelfeldt's painting of Gollum is great. My biggest problem with the trilogy was that I couldn't imagine Gollum as ever being something normal, Edelfeldt's painting makes him seem more realistic with a more humanoid face and body. Also, Peter Konig's drawing of Smaug is downright disturbing, haha.
DonatoArts
6. mike-ptda
I didn't notice any images from Ralph Bakshi. I have to say that a Hobbit in my minds eye is probaly inlfuenced more from the animated and live action films then what I have seen from illustrations. I think the main reason is I didn't read the books in the 80's until after I exposed to the animated films. Though now I have a hard time watching the animated films since Peter Jackson/Weta's work.

Thanks Tor/Irene for another fine collection.

~Mike
Samuel Montgomery-Blinn
7. montsamu
I also loved the Rankin-Bass version. Ah, the spiraling freeze-frame of the spiders when Bilbo offed them...

Anyway, here's another animated film based on The Hobbit, by Gene Deitch and Adolf Born:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/11/gene-deitch-the-hobbit_n_1198864.html

Ah, "Slag the Terrible"...
DonatoArts
9. Stefan Jones
Wow, what a variety of imagery!

I have mixed feelings about the Rankin-Bass effort. The film was a brave and well-meant attempt, but not something for the ages. On the other hand, I was immensely pleased when it came out, because it was an affirmation of sorts. The early and mid 70s were a horrible mediocre dry hole for SF&F on TV and the movies. I'd discovered written SF&F, but it felt so lonely. A TV special featuring wizards and trolls and dragons was a great validation.
DonatoArts
10. HelenS
I've never seen the Rankin-Bass version, but from what I've seen of the art I don't think I would like it at all. It looks like everything The Hobbit is not inside my head, if that makes any sense.
DonatoArts
11. JohnnyMac
Thank for another beautiful array of pictures!

A Sendak illustrated edition of "The Hobbit"; what a tantalizing thought of what might have been. I love Godbey's "...simple yet heroic Bilbo." and McCaig's "...fierce Gandalf".
Alan Brown
12. AlanBrown
Nice work, as always, Irene. Another great collection and very timely, as the upcoming movie has the Hobbit on our minds! Next to Tolkien's own illustrations, I think it is the Hildebrandt Brother's art that I most associate with The Hobbit.
DonatoArts
13. JillA
I love your art collections. Please keep them coming!
DonatoArts
14. Puff the Magic Commenter
Lot of great stuff I've never seen here. Like AlanBrown, the Hildebrandt's were my Tolkien interpreters. I had all the calenders and The Art of...

Hated the Rankin-Bass and Bakshi designs back in the day; they still look weird to me.

Tolkien's own art is something special. I'm sorry we never got to see Sendak's.
Melissa Shumake
15. cherie_2137
i think it really speaks to the true-ness of tolkien's descriptions, that so much of the art based on his works all feel the same and are instantly identifiable, even if the styles are widely different. and this is something i love about these books.
DonatoArts
16. Earl Rogers
Hmmm. R/B Bilbo looks more like Mister Toad than a hobbit. Are you sure this isn't from their adaptation of The Wind in the Willows?

Man, does Frazetta!Gollum creep me out.
DonatoArts
17. jake08
That's Randy Berrett. Used to be one of my teachers at the Academy of Art in San Francisco back in the day. Now working at Pixar.
DonatoArts
18. SF
@10, Helen S.: The art may seem odd, but you do get John Huston as Gandalf, and an amazing Brother Theodore as Gollum. His is still the definitive vocal performance as Gollum to my mind.
Irene Gallo
19. Irene
@10: HelenS: I very willing to bet it's a nostalgia thing. It was my first exposure to Tolkien. It did get me to read the novel once I got a few years older.

@17 Jake08: Thanks! I just fixed the caption.

@18 SF: That was Brother Theodore!? I used to listen to the album when I was 7 or 8 years old. I had no idea about Brother Theodore at the time. That's amazing.

Thanks all! More "picturing" to come. I have about half a dozen of these in various stages. Calling them done is the hard part.
DonatoArts
20. Stefan Jones
The "might have been" of a Maurice Sendak-illustrated "The Hobbit" fills me with sadness.
DonatoArts
21. Samita
Beautiful stuff! some more hobbit art in this book that you might like :
http://tolkieninbengali.com/?p=14
Laura Southcott
22. tallgrass
@19 Irene: Yes, please, more "Picturing"! I love these posts!

That last picture, Tolkien's little Smaug glyph, I think is going to be my next tattoo.
DonatoArts
23. Lauren Ipsum
There are not enough words to express how relieved I am that G Toro did NOT do The Hobbit. Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy were gorgeous, but they are not in any way what Middle-Earth should look like, and that drawing only underscores it for me. Middle-Earth belongs to PJ, full stop.

(Plus the ending of Pan's Labyrinth literally made me throw up with grief, so I was really worried what he was going to do to poor Bilbo.)
Dominick Saponaro
25. DominickSaponaro
Great list as usual. I especialy loved the Wyatt Black & White chapter head. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this but I don't think I've ever heard of him before. Anyone know which version of the books those chapter heads appear in? Id love to see more of them. He doesn't have much of an online presence but I did find this tumblr link if anyones interested…

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/david-wyatt

Damn fine work.
Craig Barnett
26. Ommadawn
There's some really evocative art in this post. Thanks for sharing it with us!
April Moore
27. aprildmoore
Great post, Irene! Thanks again, for this and for the post about production of A Memory of Light.
DonatoArts
28. Earth and Oak
Thank you Irene, for this post! It was a joy to see such great art work on the Hobbit! Great stuff :)

Ted Nasmith's works are among my favourites.

Re: DominickSaponaro 's question - David Wyatt's illustrations appeared in the HarperCollins (reprinted as Collins Modern Classic in 2000 I think). They are wonderful, I agree - very evocative!
A.J. Bobo
29. Daedylus
Thanks, Irene! The best part of these is that, as I look at all of them, they all seem "right". Sometimes I see art based on a book (Wheel of Time art, particularly) and say to myself, "No, that's not quite right". I can't say that about any of these. They're different from what's in my head, but they are all amazing and they all fit the book.

I have to agree with other posters about David Wyatt's chapter head. I think it steals the show here. (That's no small feat, either.)
Liz J
30. Ellisande
Awesome collection!

I'm going to guess Peter Konig also did concept art for Pacific Rim? Or else Del Toro had a whole lot of influence on that particular piece, beccause that Smaug looks just like one of the kaiju. Which is an interesting idea, but I think I have to agree with Jackson that in designing Smaug they had to, in the end, make it look like what people expect a dragon to look like. But I am looking forward to seeing some of the designs they discarded from the film, because it sounds like some fun weird stuff in there.
DonatoArts
31. SallyK
This is a wonderful collection of images, and there are several here I really like and haven't seen before.

I'm surprised you left out the new illustrated edition of the Hobbit - though I'm not sure the individual images online do it justice. The lovely thing about it is that it has not only big full page images but little decorative/illustrative ones scattered on almost every page.
http://www.jemimacatlin.com/thehobbit.html
DonatoArts
32. Kimberli
Wonderful Post! Tolkien is one of my favorite authors, thanks for sharing all the beautiful art work that people have done of the hobbit!
DonatoArts
33. Wiliam Stacey
These pictures bring me back. I can't wait for the second movie.

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