The Hobbit has been inspiring artists and readers for generations, ever since its publication 80 years ago today. 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, Over Hill and Under Hill by Chris Rahn.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
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.”
Gollum, from Swedish author and illustrator Inger Edelfeldt.
Tim Kirk captures The Riddle Game…
Greg and Tim Hildebrandt made their careers painting Tolkien’s world: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
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.
Barrels Out of Bond: Ted Nasmith’s Barrel Rider.
Donato Giancola’s “expulsion from paradise” take on The Hobbit.
J. R. R. Tolkien’s own drawing of The Hobbit landscape.
Roger Garland, with a relaxed Gandalf.
Eleanor Grosch’s Bilbo enjoying simple pleasures.
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.”
J. R. R. Tolkien
Peter Konig: concept art for Smaug, back when Guillermo del Toro was working on the movie.
The whole story told in the round, by Ian Escobar Loos:
Riddles in the Dark: David Wyatt did a series of great ink drawings for the book’s chapter heads.
David T. Wenzel: “Chip the glasses and crack the plates! / Blunt the knives and bend the forks! / That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates.”
Cory Godbey’s simple yet heroic Bilbo.
Iain McCaig, the man who invented Darth Maul, with a fierce Gandalf.
Super-cute Bilbo and Gandalf by António Quadros.
Greg and Tim Hildebrandt and An Unexpected Party.
Eric Fraser: “Farewell!” they cried. “wherever you fare, till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!”
Michael Hague: Rescued From Wolves.
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.”
From German illustrator Klaus Ensikat:
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:
Mikhail Belomlinsky’s scratchboard Hobbitses.
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.
Jonny Hodgson’s painting based largely on Tolkien’s Smaug graphic (seen below.)
The legendary Frank Frazetta: “Feeling tricksy, my precious?”
And a pen-and-ink, also from Frank Frazetta.
Randy Berrett, now working his magic at Pixar.
Acclaimed Dutch artist Cor Blok:
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.
John Howe, Gandalf in Hobbiton
The Battle of Five Armies by Justin Gerard:
Ted Nasmith, particularly good at capturing the landscape of Middle-earth.
One more from the Rankin/Bass movie, because I love it so.
Klaus Ensikat, for the second German edition of The Hobbit:
Another from Michael Hague:
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:
And it seemed fitting to end on J. R. R. Tolkien’s own cover for The Hobbit, There and Back Again:
This post has been updated since its initial publication in December 2012.
Irene Gallo is the Art Director of Tor Books.