Vastarion - That 70s Show: Tolkien Art Style
Yes, I grew up in the 70s. That decade without an identity, scrunched between the faddish idealism of the 60s and the arrogant self-serving attitude of the 80s. It wasnt really that bad growing up then. After the moon landing things were generally optimistic. The world was going to be a better place. But any good seemed to be balanced by something bad. Various crises hovered in the airWatergate, the gas crisis, the hostage crisis. We got rid of Nixon only to end up with Ford. Carter was the only president in recent times who dared to look beyond tomorrows headlines, and look where that got him. And then we got Reagan. Idealism took a sucker-punch to simple human greed.
Somewhere in the middle of that decade I discovered Tolkien. And with the swinging of the pendulum, on the good side, we got the long-awaited Silmarillion, on the bad side, there was Ralph Bakshis Lord of the Rings, and the Rankin Bass Hobbit. And somewhere in the middle, along came the Brothers Hildebrandt.
They illustrated the Tolkien Calendars in the mid 70s. I bought them religiously. The art appealed to me in an odd way. These people, hobbits, wizards, etc., werent my hobbits and wizards from The Lord of the Rings, but they were vibrant, shining representations of what a couple of artists thought was Middle-earth. I studied the details of the pictures, visualizing the Hildebrandts version of Middle-earth. It never erased my own metal pictures, and neither did Bakshi or Rankin Bass.
The Brothers Hildebrandt had a down-side too. It was a novel they wrote (with Jerry Nichols) called Urshurak, and it came out in 1979. It is perhaps the worst Tolkien imitation that Ive ever tried to read. In any case, Urshurak makes The Sword of Shannara look really goodand I read all of that book with similar sense of outrage.
What has presently inspired in me this nostalgia is a new book I just got, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt: The Tolkien Years ($24.95, ISBN 0-8230-51242), with text by Gregory Hildebrandt, Jr., the son of one of the artists and the nephew of the other. Here are all those Brothers Hildebrandt pictures that I havent looked at for twenty years, plus the stories behind the pictures, a large pullout poster of "The Siege of Minas Tirith," and photographs of various Hildebrandt friends and family members who posed as characters for certain paintings. Its an intriguing perspective, and it adds depth to the vertigo I feel looking again at all of these paintings from my youthimages that Id forgotten long ago now leap off of the page with instant recognition and familiarity.
Do the images hold up? Do they have the same fascination now as they did then? Im not sure. The people seem more wooden and posed than they did twenty-some years ago, and the art less revelatory. Still my own sense of Middle-earth remains inviolate. But this book is a fine trip down memory lane.