Monday, 26 September 2011

FANTASY ART BOOK REVIEW: A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to Accompany Lord of the Rings - Cor Blok

Release Date: 29/09/11


This brand new full-colour art book reveals in sumptuous detail more than 100 paintings based on The Lord of the Rings by acclaimed Dutch artist, Cor Blok, many of which appear here for the first time.

Fifty years ago, shortly after The Lord of the Rings was first published, Cor Blok read the work and was completely captivated by its invention and epic storytelling. The breadth of imagination and powerful imagery inspired the young Dutch artist, and this spark of enthusiasm, coupled with his desire to create art that resembled a historical artefact in its own right, led to the creation of more than 100 paintings.

Following an exhibition at the Hague in 1961, JRR Tolkien’s publisher, Rayner Unwin, sent him five pictures. Tolkien was so taken with them that he met and corresponded with the artist and even bought some paintings for himself.

The series bears comparison with the Bayeux Tapestry, in which each tells an epic and complex story in deceptively simple style, but beneath this simplicity lies a compelling and powerful language of form that becomes more effective as the sequence of paintings unfolds.

The full-colour paintings in this new book are presented in story order so that the reader can enjoy them as the artist intended. They are accompanied by extracts from The Lord of the Rings and the artist also provides an extensive introduction illuminating the creation of the series and notes to accompany some of the major compositions. Many of the paintings appear for the very first time.

Readers will find Cor Blok's work refreshing, provocative, charming and wholly memorable – the bold and expressive style that he created stands as a unique achievement in the history of fantasy illustration. Rarely has an artist captured the essence of a writer's work in such singular fashion; the author found much to admire in Cor Blok’s work, and what higher accolade is there?


They say that Art is in the eye of the beholder as to what the viewer likes and enjoys. As a huge fan of the pieces that I’ve seen by Alan Lee as well as Tolkien’s own pieces it’s always interesting to see what others created to accompany the various scenes. Obviously with the films having been released in modern times many artists will use the beautiful scenes to help create an influence but to see pieces from the sixties as created by Cor Blok was not only fascinating but a new style for me which feels that it’s a mish mash of styles from across the centuries which may not appeal to everyone.

Add to this the artist’s correspondence with JRR Tolkien himself and it’s a title that is fascinating and a coffee table item for fans of the series.

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