J.R.R. Tolkien appears to have viewed his sub-creation as a world that others can and probably should add to.
Surely plenty of artists have tried their hand on themes from The Professor’s stories: Names such as Alan Lee, John Howe and Ted Nasmith come to mind. Today, we were introduced to another contemporary painter who appears to love Middle-Earth: Donato Giancola. Here is an example of his art:
One of the things I like particularly about Giancola’s work is that the characters from Tolkien’s books do not look like the actors that portray them in Peter Jackson’s movies. Precisely because they have all done a terrific job portraying all those wonderful Tolkien’ian characters, they have made it quite hard to sever one’s imagination from their faces and voices. Mr. Giancola does not seem to have this problem and I am very thankful for it. Look at this example of Gandalf and Frodo:
Now, I am no expert, so don’t take my word for anything concerning art, ask John Howe! Here’s what he says, quoted from Mr. Giancola’s website:
“There’s more to Donato Giancola’s art than just a pretty face. Underneath the incredibly meticulous surface of his paintings is concealed a love of perspective and form, an intimate understanding of the human body, a historian’s knowledge of costume and armour, an infallible sense of implicit narrative, visual storytelling and mythical history. It’s just that you’re so rapt gazing at all the mind-blowingly pretty bits that you tend to miss it. Look again. There’s a lot more to see.”
-John Howe, concept designer, artist, historian
One last example, this time not from Tolkien’s world but from the Magic: The Gathering game cards. It is titled ‘Amber Prison”:
The paintings of Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach carry a special mood. He painted beautiful landscapes, often the coastlines of Capri, Italy, where he spent the last 14 years of his life, but he also did a lot of mythical paintings, sometimes combined with self portraits.
Diefenbach was born in Hessen, Germany, on 21 February 1851 – incidentally, that’s the day after tomorrow 169 years ago, so Happy Birthday! – and was, according to the Wiki, “a pioneer of the naturist and the peace movements. His country commune, Himmelhof, in Ober Sankt Veit near Vienna (1897–1899) was one of the models for the reform settlement Monte Verità in Ascona. His ideas included life in harmony with nature and rejection of monogamy, turning away from any religion (although he was a follower of theosophy), and a vegetarian diet.” After his commune had to close, he moved to Capri where he died on 15 December 1913.
The Fairy Dance (presumably ‘Feentanz’) does not contain a self portrait, I would assume, but it definitely has a mythical quality in the very choice of colors and the amazing dynamic of the dance, not to mention the motive. Just notice the tree branches bending, and how the color of the fairies and their magic dance repeats on the rocky slopes of the mountains.
In this house we have three reasonably little girls and three reasonably big dogs. It’s unbelievable that we haven’t had any of Charles Burton Barber’s paintings on our family website before!
Charles Burton Barber (1845–1894), was a British painter who is mostly known for his portraits of children, particularly girls, and their pets. Already during his lifetime, Barber was regarded as one of the country’s finest animal painters and received commissions from Queen Victoria to do paintings of her with grandchildren and dogs, as well as of the Prince of Wales, the later Edward VII, and his pets.
There are so many of his paintings that are just too cute, it was quite hard to choose one. So here is one more, just for the joy of looking at paintings of little girls growing up with dogs.
Aagaard’s work is especially notable for his inclusion of historical architecture and ruins, which he often located in epic and romantic milieu.
Carl Frederik Peder Aagaard (born 29 January 1833 in Odense on the Danish island of Funen, died 2 November 1895 in Copenhagen) was an incredible Danish painter. His paintings focus on Northern European forests and waterways, and they often include historical buildings, even like the water mill or farm house in the example below.
Tree-and-water lovers know this kind of light, and what it is like to sit by the brook or lake under the trees in spring, when the light falls through them just like this… It was no big surprise to learn that Carl Frederik Aagaard had lived some time with his brother, who was a woodcutter, in order to improve his painting (and observation) skills.
Spring, and with it the kind of light depicted in the painting, is not quite here yet, but January is about over and soon we shall know if spring will come early the year, or if winter will linger for another six weeks.
Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme / of things not found within recorded time.
But, said Lewis, myths are lies, even though lies breathed through silver.
No, said Tolkien, they are not.
And indicating the great trees of Magdalen Grove as their branches bent in the wind, he struck out a different line of argument.
You call a tree a tree, and you think nothing more of the word. But it was not a ‘tree’ until someone gave it that name. You call a star a star, and say it is just a ball of matter moving on a mathematical course. But that is merely ho YOU see it. By so naming things and describing them you are only inventing your own terms about them. And just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.
We have come from God (continued Tolkien), and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.
In expounding this belief in the inherent TRUTH of mythology, Tolkien had laid bare the center of his philosophy as a writer, the creed that is at the heart of ‘The Silmarillion’.
The account of this conversation is based on Tolkiens poem Mythopoeia, to which he also gave the titles ‘Misomythos’ and ‘Philomythos and Misomythos’. One manuscript is marked ‘for C.S.L.’.
~ Humphrey Carpenter: J.R.R. Tolkien. A Biography.
Knowing full well that this is arguably one of his most well known paintings, we still decided on Carl Spitzweg‘s The Poor Poet for today’s post. This is not the first time we chose the Biedermeier painter – I grew up with a lot of Spitzweg everywhere and am quite familiar with many of his painting, just by osmosis, so to speak. The Poor Poet was always a favorite, probably because he is such a funny character, almost a caricature, and then again, he isn’t. Chances are, the artist’s lot as portrayed was and is a lot more common than one might imagine. In a world where efficiency and materialism rule, the fine arts don’t exactly have their hay-day, and living off one’s creative energy only works for a select few.
So have compassion and do not laugh at him, even if he has his quill in his mouth and his glasses on upside down. His oven is cold, his roof is leaky, and his room is a squash and a squeeze. Small wonder the muses do not visit him often these days, and if they do, nobody values their input, or the poet’s output, as they should. Poor Poet, indeed!