13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I love this book! It's beautiful. For an ardent Tolkien-ophile like me it's pure pleasure to read the erudite and informative text, or pore over Tolkien's fabulous pictures. Tolkien's best artworks are truly wonderful, and his maps and cover designs are all of a piece with his 'gesamtkunstwerk', the total work of art and imagination that is his special act of genius.
Definitely something for the buff, this book assumes knowledge of Tolkien and his world, including, very naturally, The Hobbit itself. It's wonderful to learn more about the evolution of the book, for example the 'Home Manuscript', from which he read the story to his children, and in which illustrations played their part right from the beginning, and see how his maps, sketches, illustrations and design work, all fed into an ever-evolving creative process.
Learning about some of the specific triggers for Tolkien's ideas, for example his 'adventure' in the Swiss Alps in 1911 that inspired the part of the story (and the corresponding illustration, 'The Mountain Path') in which Bilbo and his companions are in the mountains during a dramatic thunderstorm, or the historical buildings that inspired Beorn's hall, or the lake-town of Esgaroth, is both fascinating and deeply pleasurable.
The print quality is superb, with details that were not visible in the various book-form publications of The Hobbit now clearly there to be seen and enjoyed, and augmented by much more in the way of sketches and related artworks. As just one example of how this ancillary material enriches the Tolkien/Hobbit experience, consider that Tolkien wrote a beautifully executed calligraphic version of Thorin's note to Bilbo, in Tengwar script. This is so typical of the joyfully creative obsessional perfectionist streak exemplified in the whole of Tolkien's creative work.
Bearing in mind this perfectionist tendency, it's both endearing and plain wonderful that Tolkien, an amateur artist, was both able to provide this rich visual material to further enhance the experience of his imaginary world, and received the support of his publishers in doing so. Acutely aware of his own shortcomings (especially noticeable where he depicts figures), he didn't let this stop him. His highly stylised images range from beautiful black and white pictures, such as the aforementioned 'Mountain Path', or the fantastic depiction of curling smoke contrasting with vertical tree trunks in 'The Trolls', to richly coloured pieces like the homely 'Hobbiton-across-the-Water', or the decoratively abstract adventurousness of 'Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves', this last apparently being Tolkien's own favourite.
The richness of Tolkien's conception extends to such things as beautifully stylised ornamental borders (often quite art-nouveau/deco in feel), the presence of his linguistic ideas in beautiful runes, or elvish scripts (both within and as borders to images), the use of maps both as aids to his own writing and illustration work, gorgeous evocative images in themselves, as well as for the reader's use, and the design work he did for the book-binding and dust jacket, the latter being a superbly stylised three colour affair, which has lately and very understandably come back into vogue in the flurry of Hobbit anniversary editions.
If, like me, you own other books of Tolkien's art, there is going to be some overlap and repetition (Tolkien's complete artistic output is after all fairly small, and, barring new archival discoveries, not going to grow!). But having all the material relating to The Hobbit in one extremely handsome volume - and both the hardback itself, and the slipcase, are wonderful - is just fabulous. Like the shining Arkenstone atop the dragon hoard under the Lonely Mountain, so beautifully depicted in 'Conversation with Smaug' this book is a marvellous gem.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2011
If you are familiar with Tolkien you will probably be familiar with many of the finished illustrations in this book, what makes it an essential Tolkien book though is all the sketches and roughs which Tolkien worked through in order to get to the finished illustrations. Add to this informative text and you have a winner. Finally, this book is very well produced, for the price it does have a nice quality feel about it, well worth the price.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2011
My main problem: this book doesn't fit very well on my Tolkien shelves (it is quite large and square, and so sticks out much further than the rest of the tall books)! However, I would definitely say that it is worth the purchase for fans interested in the evolution of the pictures in the finished book. I have the previous Tolkien art collections ('Pictures by Tolkien' and 'Artist and Illustrator') and neither of these covers all the pictures in this book, so it is still worth buying for those who have the earlier collections.
The book is extremely well presented, with a sturdy slipcase featuring the 'classic' cover design and then a white version of the Elvenking's hall picture printed onto blue-purple boards. The inside pages are glossy, with large, high-resolution pictures. There is a short introduction by the editors, giving some of the history and referring to the previously mentioned 'Artist and Illustrator', which they also compiled, as well as some text in each section describing the evolution of each artwork, referring to the enclosed numbered pictures. These are often on fold out sheets which can be quite hard to see if you aren't paying attention to the numbering systems, and folding these back in without creases can be a chore, but if you're used to messing around with the fiddly fold out maps at the end of the Tolkien's works then it shouldn't be a problem.
When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his classic book "The Hobbit," he also made several illustrations for it. "The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien" explores all the artwork that Tolkien produced for that book -- every sketch and version of the illustrations, and how they related to the text. It's not a read for casual fans, but for Tolkien aficionados.
Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull carefully study all the pictures Tolkien drew -- the trolls, the interior of Beorn's hall, the entrance to the Elf-King's home, Rivendell from different angles, Bag End and the surrounding Hobbiton, Lonely Mountain, and so on. Each picture is shown in large, clear formats (sometimes with fold-out pages).
But they don't just study the final product. Just about every piece of art Tolkien made for "The Hobbit" is in here, from rough pencil sketches to detailed maps and watercolors. Even the scribbles in the margins are preserved.
And there's a lot of analysis of how these pictures came to be. Scull and Hammond explore Tolkien's "Hobbit" art, artistic influences and the evolution of Tolkien's artwork, as well as some of the changes he made along the way (the Elf-King's gate abruptly changes shape). And they answer some important questions in their analyses, such as... why is Bilbo wearing boots in some of the pictures?
As an artist, Tolkien comes across as possessing real talent, but technically untutored. His art ranges from pencil sketches showing the basic outlines to delicate pen-and-ink work, and even color work in deep earth tones of brown and grey.
He wasn't a great artist -- Scull and Hammond note that he had some artistic issues, such as the scale of furniture in Bag End. But his artwork does have a raw, almost primal power that really draw you in, and his careful attention to detail (EVERY tree in Mirkwood is on the map!) shows the level of passion he had for this project.
"The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien" will seem a bit dry to casual readers, but Tolkien aficionados will not want to miss the insights that are unveiled about Tolkien's "Hobbit" art.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2011
My boyfriend is a great fan of the Hobbit and this book was just the thing to get him as a gift. The illustrations are beautiful and the book itself looks great. Some of the pictures are just sketches with a few lines but still it is interesting to see how the illustrations went from a small outline to the final result. We haven't had a chance to read the accompanying text as of yet but a quick skim seems to say it is good also.
The book itself arrived incredibly quick! The day after I had ordered it, I was very impressed! All in all a brilliant buy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2012
This edition is a nice addition to my collection of Tolkien books. I probably won't live to see another significant anniversary edition, like the centenary edition. Thus, it is a significant collector book for me.
(I risk) opening it and see the beautiful painted pictures of Tolkien's drawings - it really bring back good memories of the 1st time I read the book and it (now) creates new images of how I envisioned Bilbo would be troddling Middle Earth again.
Its a great book!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2011
The book is a very extraordinary example of archaeology of the first work of Tolkien, "The Hobbit", from the point of view of the visual birth of the book before, perhaps, its literary one. Tolkien was surely a perfect creator of landscapes and wild panorama and this book is the final example of this skill.
on 30 November 2013
If you like Tolkien's stories and imaginary worlds, you are probably wondering about how he himself was seeing them. And that artbook is a perfect answer. Tolkien, as many other educated people of his age, was not a bad painter, so he managed to describe what he imagined in sketches. Besides, he had undying passion for maps, and you can find some of his wonderful maps here.