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**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Escape by Barrel**

squire
Valinor


Feb 22 2007, 5:25am

Post #1 of 12 (1100 views)
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**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Escape by Barrel** Can't Post

After an unpleasant and dreary time underground, Bilbo springs the captive dwarves, and floats them in barrels out of the Elven-king’s palace. He rides a barrel himself, and they all come to the Forest River at the place where the Raft-elves gather the barrels and make them into a raft for transport to Laketown.

From The Hobbit, Chapter IX, ‘Barrels Out of Bond”:
In this way at last Mr. Baggins came to a place where the trees on either hand grew thinner. He could see the paler sky between them. The dark river opened suddenly wide, and there it was joined to the main water of the Forest River flowing down in haste from the king's great doors. There was a dim sheet of water no longer overshadowed, and on its sliding surface there were dancing and broken reflections of clouds and of stars. Then the hurrying water of the Forest River swept all the company of casks and tubs away to the north bank, in which it had eaten out a wide bay. This had a shingly shore under hanging banks and was walled at the eastern end by a little jutting cape of hard rock. On the shallow shore most of the barrels ran aground, though a few went on to bump against the stony pier.


Tolkien did a fairly finished watercolor sketch of this scene.


122. Sketch for the Forest River
Click here for a larger view.


Hammond and Scull criticize this picture as being untrue to Tolkien’s map.


Detail from the map of Wilderland.


Is it untrue to the map? How so? Does it matter?

Other than the map, what do you think of the sketch? What’s wrong and what’s right? Why does Tolkien label it only a “sketch”?

Well, evidently Tolkien agreed with H&S. He rethought his composition, and did several more sketches. The only one (the “most detailed” one) published in Artist and Illustrator is this:


123. Untitled (Sketch for Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves)
Click here for a larger view.



What did Tolkien do? What’s different? What’s wrong with it – if anything?

Of course, it’s always most interesting to compare a sketch to the final product:


124. Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves (Published in The Hobbit, UK edition)
Click here for a larger view.



This was Tolkien’s own favorite picture of all his artwork. Hammond and Scull say “It is a superbly effective work, at once dramatic, decorative and romantic.”

Do you agree that this is Tolkien’s single best painting?

Can you identify a bit of what gives the painting its style? What is “realistic” – and what is not? Talk about the trees, the water, and the light – for starters.

How closely does it follow the writing?

This color plate made it into the British second edition – but the American publishers chose to use the Eagle painting instead. I remember being very surprised when I first saw this painting, since I was raised on the American edition.

Should the Americans have gone with this “masterpiece” of Tolkien’s?

How much in dollars would you bid for the original painting if it showed up on eBay? Be realistic.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Penthe
Gondor


Feb 22 2007, 9:07am

Post #2 of 12 (505 views)
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Very fine trees. [In reply to] Can't Post

I quite like how the little bit of tree visible in sketch 123 looks like a gum tree though. That's fun.

I can't really tell if the first one is untrue to the map. Perhaps the river jinks about a bit more than we can really see. Our local river is very curvy.

The final one is better, though, in the sense that it is less diffuse. In 122 the water curving away from the direction in which the barrel is travelling draws attention away from where Bilbo and the Dwarves are headed. The final picture looks very strongly towards that direction. Unlike the first one, though, we can't actually see their destination. It's much more mysterious.

What I like best about it, though, is the way the light falls in a hard line across the curves in the water and the curves of the trees.


Curious
Half-elven

Feb 22 2007, 1:49pm

Post #3 of 12 (498 views)
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The huts should be in deep, deep shadow. And the sun should be blinding. [In reply to] Can't Post

And where are the giant, wild trees of Mirkwood forest? These trees seem rather cute, and well pruned.

Also, where did that mountain behind the huts come from? It's not the Lonely Mountain, and I don't recall any mountains in that vicinity. And like many of Tolkien's mountains, it has the artificially-steep slopes of an upside-down ice cream cone.

The ripples in the water are pretty, but highly stylized, like the beaches, the trees, the mountain, and the sun. It's all a little too precious and artificial for me, especially considering the setting in the story. And the more I think about it, the more the artificial lighting bothers me.

I only criticize, though, in reaction to Hammond and Scull's effusive praise and your questions. As usual, this is the work of a talented amateur. It is not my favorite of Tolkien's drawings because, unlike most of his drawings, it doesn't seem quite true to the story.

Furthermore it's not a particularly revealing picture. I never wondered what the huts looked like, and Laketown and the Lonely Mountain are not at all visible. The illustration conceals more than it reveals. It's a nice picture, but I want more from the Author of the tale.


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Feb 22 2007, 1:52pm

Post #4 of 12 (491 views)
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The last one, #124, Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft Elves, [In reply to] Can't Post

reminds me of stained glass. There are large swaths of the same color and little shading.

~~~~~~~~

I used to be GaladrielTX, but then TX seceded.



Morwen
Rohan


Feb 22 2007, 4:55pm

Post #5 of 12 (491 views)
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I don't know about realism. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Can you identify a bit of what gives the painting its style? What is “realistic” – and what is not? Talk about the trees, the water, and the light – for starters.



The painting certainly seems to be more stylized than realistic. The round or conical trees, the white lines on the blue water, the sharp edges of the bank and even the geometrical shape of the slanting light all seem a bit too well defined to be realistic. However, somehow it has a nice, peaceful, sunlight on the water feel that reminds me of a real body of water and makes the picture very pleasant to look at.


In Reply To

There was a dim sheet of water no longer overshadowed, and on its sliding surface there were dancing and broken reflections of clouds and of stars.



If the water reflected stars shouldn't Tolkien have painted the scene at night?

Another question-- to me, the barrels appear to be flowing toward the mountain on the upper left. Wouldn't the river flow away from the mountain?

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 22 2007, 7:16pm

Post #6 of 12 (476 views)
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sun on water [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Can you identify a bit of what gives the painting its style? What is “realistic” – and what is not? Talk about the trees, the water, and the light – for starters.



The painting certainly seems to be more stylized than realistic. The round or conical trees, the white lines on the blue water, the sharp edges of the bank and even the geometrical shape of the slanting light all seem a bit too well defined to be realistic. However, somehow it has a nice, peaceful, sunlight on the water feel that reminds me of a real body of water and makes the picture very pleasant to look at.

This might be my favorite Tolkien artwork. As you say, it's really not one bit "realistic", it's highly stylized...and yet, I can almost feel the sun on the water as I move out of the shade of the trees on top of a barrel. Despite (or because of?) the swirls "drawn" on the "water", it imparts a feeling of movement to me. I think Tolkien really caught the effect of sun on water here. a.s.

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


Curious
Half-elven

Feb 22 2007, 8:38pm

Post #7 of 12 (446 views)
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More like oil on water to me. Are we sure those elves [In reply to] Can't Post

weren't engaging in heavy industry? ;-) (Old-school smiley.)


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Feb 22 2007, 9:40pm

Post #8 of 12 (452 views)
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key word is "decorative" [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Quote
Hammond and Scull say “It is a superbly effective work, at once dramatic, decorative and romantic.”



It seems to me that the key word is "decorative".

Even though it uses perspective, the image is flat. That is not a bad thing, though. That is the aspect that makes it decorative. I looking at a poster on my wall that I purchased at the local Art Museum. It is flat, but marvelously decorative and beautiful. Some very beautiful graphic design is flat. The Nouveau Artists created flat work. The Cubists and Futurists (and others of that time) were very concerned with the flat surface of the canvas.

Looking at Tolkien’s final piece, I close one eye, squint the other (an artists’ test) just how graphic the image is becomes more evident. The whole image deals mostly in graphic shapes of rectangles, triangles and circles.

The marvelously curved shape running up the center is the focal point. The fact that it runs up the center, accentuates the flatness. If the viewpoint were more off-center, more from the shoreline, it would be less flat (it could still be elevated). It may not improve the image however.

The analogous colors add to the decorative affect.

The ‘Dramatic’ aspect is easy. Tiny Bilbo hanging on for dear life on a barrel, racing along with the river current is dramatic.

Romantic: I am not entirely sure what they are referring to. There is a “Romantic” period in art history, in the 1800’s (around the time of Dickens…I kind of associate Romantic artists with that type of story telling). Many have emotive and dramatic scenes of like a small boat in raging seas, for example. Is that what they are referring to, that its like that period? Or do they mean romantic in the contemporary sense. Alluring, enough to make us want to be part of the adventure. I suspect they mean the latter since the image does not have any similarity to that particular historical style.

Websites Directory, my drawings,Aloha & Mahalo


Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


drogo
Lorien


Feb 23 2007, 12:46am

Post #9 of 12 (442 views)
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Indeed [In reply to] Can't Post

The final Bilbo image is probably my favorite color plate from The Hobbit (or a close second to the image of Hobbiton). Tolkien is just absract enough here that he creates a dreamy, fantasy quality that seems to work. His attempts to be more "realistic" seem to fall a little short.


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 23 2007, 5:08am

Post #10 of 12 (454 views)
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Still too steep [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that the initial image conveys the feeling much better, as the hills in the background are not too steep and you also see the building in the distance, where they are eventually going. The third one still has a cartoonish feel, as does the first, really, but the first looks more realistic to my eye.


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 24 2007, 4:54am

Post #11 of 12 (438 views)
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The final picture "feels soft". [In reply to] Can't Post

There is nothing harsh in this picture. The tree trunks and boughs seem velvet; the branches curve gently. Their roots are gnarled, but they cling to mossy grass and soft dirt. The river - and its water - are continuously curving. The shadows are those of soft evening.

This picture draws one in, and is very relaxing to look at! No wonder Tolkien favored it.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Still 'round the corner there may wait
A new road, or a secret gate...


linkin-artelf
Lorien


Mar 5 2007, 5:27am

Post #12 of 12 (756 views)
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The final image [In reply to] Can't Post

stands out as being quite a departure from Tolkien's other works. As Daughter of Nienna says it is very graphic, reminds me of a woodblock print. I like it very much, the colors, lines, stylization and light are all appealing and well done. This would appear the end of the barrel journey as the sun is just rising, peeking out from the lower left sky.
The first image seemed to be heading in the direction of the later work. It's not as well done, though. The lines of the water are poorly done and the foreground tree just looks wrong, neither realistic nor stylized. The center drawing is interesting in how it shows how he worked through his design to his final work.

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"I walk along the shore and I gaze
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Will it travel forth to you
Far across this shimmering sea?"
formerly linkinparkelf

 
 

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