Dragons are arguably the most ubiquitous and most beloved fantastical creature. Initially I shied away from dragons as a theme—they’re everywhere, where do you even start!? But they are everywhere because they are cool, and seeking out dragon images meant going down a delightful rabbit-hole through all ages, cultures, styles, and dispositions. So without further ado, welcome to Picturing Dragons, at 170 drawings and paintings, it is perhaps the largest installment of the Picturing series yet!
We start off (above) with one of the most beautiful renditions of one of the most famous dragons of them all, Alan Lee’s Smaug.
The first of many Saint George and the Dragon paintings we’ll see here—and perhaps one of the most famous—by Raphael.
And from Raphael to the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward Burne-Jones with Perseus and Andromeda in The Doom Fulfilled.
Julie Dillon’s beautifully conceived desert dragon.
Aaron Miller, Dragons of Red Rocks Canyon. I love that the dragon has a decorated entrance.
From Ciruelo Cabral, an Argentine painter who specializes in dragons.
Elves and dragons, two elegant creatures—by John Howe.
Jaime Jones. I love how completely natural this scene is.
Jon Foster created a great series of covers for Tim Zahn featuring a boy with a dragon tattoo…which is not always just a tattoo.
Another from Aaron Miller, The Scouting Party.
Still one of my favorite Donato Giancola paintings. The glade is beautiful and the dragons look so natural in it. For Barbara Hambly’s Dragonshadow.
Darrell Sweet paints a scene from The Silmarillion.
Of course, no post about dragon art can skip Michael Whelan and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. Here are just two examples drawn from their collaboration over the years. Sadly, McCaffrey is longer with us, but you can read Whelan’s touching tribute to her here.
John Howe, working magic with warm and cool glows.
Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, by Michael Komark.
And another from Jon Foster’s set of Timothy Zhan covers about a boy and his tattoo dragon…
Emperor Huang Di from Austin Hsu.
Cory Godbey’s sea dragon looks so casual and human in this painting.
Stephen Hickman for Steven Brust Jhereg. Here’s one where the dragon’s near-human hands seem to add some intelligence to the creature.
Epic in every way: Nicolas Delort, a contemporary scratchboard artist working in fantasy and science fiction. (Here’s a guy that knows how to carve a niche out for himself!) Here’s Eowyn and the Nazgul.
Arthur Rackham being amazing.
Justin Gerard is a young artist with a great knack for classic storytelling. Here’s his take on Saint George and the Dragon. This is just one of a series—you should check out the rest.
Viktor Vasnetsov’s seven-headed Hydra.
Brian Froud’s homage to John Bauer. (The original Bauer image is posted further down below.)
Siegfried tastes the dragon’s blood, from Arthur Rackham.
A girl and her dragon, what can be more harmless? By Zach Montoya.
Sam Weber for Jane Lindskold’s The Thirteen Orphans, a fantasy novel based on the Chinese zodiac.
Detail from the Islamic Book of Kings, art attributed to Qasim ibn ’Ali.
Iconic profile by concept artist Iain McCaig.
Ukiyo-e artist Ogata Gekko’s dragon rising…
Jaime Jones. This is one of those paintings that instantly places you there. Each time I see it, all I can think of is, “We are so screwed.”…and then I remember to admire the light, the composition….
A scene from Xiaodi so real it feels like it’s happening right now.
Don Maitz and the Death of the Last Dragon.
Donn P. Crane’s Siegfried slaying Fafnir.
I was so happy to stumble into this J. C. Leyendecker piece. It wouldn’t be a Picturing post without him, and it’s just a great image.
Frank C. Papé, an English artist, taking on the Russian folk tale “Falcon the Hunter.”
A really lovely Saint Michael and the Dragon from an unknown artist, believed to be from Spain.
An early morning chase from Heather Theurer.
Julie Bell, mixing realistic rendering of the figure with a wonderfully loose and textural dragon.
These two look like they were born for each other. By Jason Chan.
Michael Komarck with not just an awesome dragon, but the courage to show the scene through a veil of spears.
Bob Eggleton has painted approximately one gazillion dragons. Consider this just a prod to go look up the rest.
Kinuko Craft, always stunning, always elegant. This one for Freda Warrington’s Grail of the Summer Stars.
Omar Rayyan, one of the great animal caricaturists of all time. Seriously. We’re just lucky to have him in our time.
Android/Andrew Jones: monarch dragon, made of thousands of butterflies.
Konstantin Vasilyev with a stylized mountain of a knight versus the snake-y dragon.
The Child in the World by pre-Raphaelite Thomas Cooper Gotch.
James Jean, tormented by a Secret.
I couldn’t find an artist credit for this beyond “Art Deco Dragon,” but it’s a lovely piece so, whoever you were, thank you.
James Jean’s take on Saint George and the Dragon for the hugely popular comic book series Fables.
A classic from John Howe, one of the great Tolkien artists.
Jon Hodgson’s painting is based largely on Tolkien’s Smaug drawing (seen at the end of this post.)
Daren Bader, wings versus wings.
A favorite find for me on this project. I didn’t know about Huangfan’s work before, but I’m sure glad I know about it now.
A pile of dragon in Aftermath by Sandara.
Jaime Jones with one really massive dragon.
Lucas Graciano. I’m not sure whether it’s the dragon or the spear holders that are about to have a bad day.
Just one image from Anna and Elena Balbusso’s lavishly-illustrated Beowulf.
William Timlin, from The Ship That Sailed To Mars.
Super-cute Saint George by JooHee Yoon.
“Lead us not into temptation” from Mucha’s Pater Noster
William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon
This was one of my favorite finds while putting this collection together: Nine Dragons from Chen Rong. I’ve only shown one of the nine here but each one is a delight. Be sure to check out the whole scroll.
Andrei Ryabushkin, In the Dragon Cave
Jeremy Enecio, who often makes everything just on the other side of comfortable.
Todd Lockwood breaking down fantastical anatomy in A Natural History of Dragons.
Da Vinci’s dragon versus lion.
Corinne Reid, The King’s Request.
Wayne Anderson, from The Flight of Dragons.
A scholarly dragon from David Thiérrée.
Salvator Rosa painting, Jason Charming the Dragon.
Frederic Leighton with Perseus and Andromeda.
Chris Rahn’s Little Prince. This painting is just 5×7 inches small, created for the annual MicroVisions art auction.
Lucas Graciano’s Dragon Swarm does a great job of showing one woman in control of a lot of power.
Georg Janny. I have Charles Vess to thank for the introduction to Janny’s work.
A truly ghoulish dragon from Min Yum.
Andrew/Android Jones’ water dragon for 2012’s Year of the Dragon celebrations.
Another from Huangfan. I just love the sense of speed and flight that he gets from these bold and relatively simple shapes.
Michael Pedro. A little glow in the mouth and the eye can be everything.
Eyvind Earle, one of the great old Disney artists, concept art for Sleeping Beauty.
One of the most famous dragon portraits of them all, John Jude Palencar’s Eragon. Author Christopher Paolini was so taken by Palencar’s work that he named an Inheritance Cycle king after him.
Temeraire, by Karl Kopinski. A reader corrects me, not Temeraire but freind of Temeraire! Likely from The Black Powder War. (Thanks!)
It‘s remarkable how John Howe is able to put the subject of the painting in the middle distance. I also enjoy the fact that it’s such a lovely, blissful day.
A Confabulation of Dragons from wonderful fairy-tale artist, Scott Gustafson.
Now, these guys are adventuring…by Raoul Vitale.
…and another from Raoul Vitale.
Lars Grant-West showing off some quieter moments in a dragon’s life.
Dragon taxi in Charles Lepec’s La Tarrasque.
A beautiful emerald-eyed dragon from Stephan Martinière.
Toothless is an in-house favorite, with good reason. Here’s a piece of concept art for How to Train Your Dragon.
Tony DiTerlizzi’s Kenny & the Dragon.
Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Winged Dragon of Ethiopia.
Dragon and dragons by Daren Bader.
Charles Vess with the spirit of the forest.
Bertha Lum, an American artist working in Japan.
From Virginia Sterrett‘s Arabian Nights.
Victo Ngai’s year of the dragon.
Greg Manchess, painting Gene Wolfe’s The Wizard Knight in classic Golden Age style.
Even Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has had to fight a dragon…
One of three paintings Dan Dos Santos did featuring a punk-ish blacksmith/dragon slayer.
Now this would be a great moment, wouldn’t it? From Julie Dillon.
Nathan Fowkes for How To Train Your Dragon. This says so much with just a few fast blobs.
A delightful middle-grade dragon from Greg Swearingen.
Joshua Middleton, a young man meeting an even younger dragon.
Dan Dos Santos’ The Dragon Empress. This piece recently won a Spectrum medal.
Mark Molchan has captured a great moment in which something big is about to happen…
This Magic card from Cythnia Sheppard shows us just who is the most badass…and that fighting dragons is bloody business.
A Flight of Sky Knights from Kekai Kotaki.
Michael Kaluta’s take on Eowyn and the Nazgul.
Charles Santoso, Dragon’s Nightmare.
Craig Phillips, pleasantly hitching a ride.
Concept art for How to Train Your Dragon by Shane Prigmore.
Bayard Wu with great rhythm and one badass panda.
Where did Bill Carman’s dragon go?
N. C. Wyeth…
Scottish symbolist John Duncan, The Sword of Light.
A cover for Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea by Leo and Diane Dillon.
By someone named Mooncookie on Deviant Art.
I had the pleasure of working with Kazuhiko Sano a few times. This one was for Elizabeth Kerner’s Song in the Silence.
Fantasy art legend Keith Parkinson.: North Watch, for Dragon magazine.
Giovanni Battista Crosato’s Jason and Medea charming the Sleepless Dragon of the Golden Fleece. For some reason I find this one funny.
I’ve always loved Tolkien’s own drawings for Middle-earth.
Virginia Frances Sterrett’s Cadmus Slays the Dragon
N. C. Wyeth showing the original hipsters.
Elenore Abbott’s illustration for The Two Brothers.
Frank C. Papé on the Russian folk tale “Nikitich and Marina.”
Utagawa Kunisada’s dragon riders.
Pavel Orinyansky…everyone looks a little annoyed.
Firat Solhan. Soooo sweet.
Flying dragons and flying carpets. By Evaline Ness.
Charles Vess and his typically masterful line work.
British fairy tale artist John D. Batten.
Russian fairy tale artist Nika Goltz.
Ana Juan from Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. (It’s always great to see contemporary novels utilize illustration throughout.)
Uh-oh! Peter de Seve.
Henry Justice Ford from The Violet Fairy Book.
German illustrator Hermann Vogel takes on The Ring of the Nibelung.
British illustrator Sidney Sime, popular with Lord Dunsany
Mark Summers’ scratchboard dragon, patiently waiting for his passage in.
Eric Velhagen, showing another woman in complete command of a whole lot of dragon-power.
Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ luxurious Dragon Slayer.
A bookplate by Franz von Bayros: Saint George rescuing a maiden who looks like she’s doing just fine without him.
Dragon tree, Ian Miller.
Arthur Rackham’s Leviathan.
Resting in the dragon’s mouth—I couldn’t find the artist’s credit, anyone know who it’s by?
An undead dragon with disturbingly human arms, by Steven Belldin.
I love the movement and atmosphere in this—you can clearly hear and feel this scene. Lauren Saint-Onge.
Many people have painted Eowyn and the Nazgul: this one by Donato Giancola is among the best.
Stephan Martinière’s cover for Michael Swanwick’s The Dragons of Babel.
One more from Eyvind Earle and Sleeping Beauty.
One of the most adored folktale artists, Sweden’s John Bauer. In fact, this piece is the basis for the Brain Froud painting earlier in the post above!
Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent drawn by Stjepan Sejic.
Edward Gorey proves that even dragons can be thoughtful and well mannered.
Two from Olga Dugina and Andrej Dujin, A Thousand and One Nights…
…. and The Dragon’s Feather.
Ignis, illustrated by P. J. Lynch, is about a sweet dragon that needs to learn how to breath fire.
Yoshitaka Aman, looking very poisonous.
This dragon wants them books…by Michael Komarck.
Dan Milligan’s concept art for an ill-fated Pern movie (a shame—judging by the few samples I’ve seen, an “Art of” book would be wonderful.)
Brom’s Serpent of One Thousand Kings.
From Aleksi Briclot’s lavishly illustrated Merlin, a retelling of the classic Arthurian tale.
I’ll sign off with Tolkien’s delightful Smaug. I know there are many, many more wonderful examples of dragons in art—please feel free to add pictures and links in the comments!