Artists in Middle-Earth: illustrating The Lord of the Rings

10:30 AM, Friday 9 Aug 2019 (1 hour)

Artists in Middle-Earth: illustrating The Lord of the Rings

Among the many British editions of The Lord of the Rings published since 1954-55, only two included sets of illustrations. The first one was created by Ingahild Grathmer and Eric Fraser for the 1977 Folio Society edition, and the second by Alan Lee for the 1991-1992 Centenary edition.

Their pictures enable us to read Tolkien’s words differently by showcasing the artists’ own interpretations of Tolkien’s words. In this paper I propose to take a detailed look at these illustrations – some of which are part of today’s collective imaginary – in order to show how they interact with this multi-facetted text, and how they shed a new light on it.

The paper will also examine the artists’ sources of inspiration, and how looking at past artworks helped them shape their visual interpretations of Tolkien’s story. A part of this presentation will stem from the Master’s dissertation I wrote on Alan Lee’s Lord of the Rings illustrations. This work was based on an exclusive interview with Alan Lee, along with a close study of the illustrations and how they interact with the text.

Establishing a dialogue between Alan Lee’s artworks on the one hand and Ingahild Grathmer and Eric Fraser’s illustrations on the other hand, reveals how the same text inspires a variety of different visual interpretations, each one born from a specific vision of Middle-Earth.

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