Thursday, December 6, 2012

J.R.R. Tolkien

by Donato

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.  With the movie adaptation hitting the theaters next week, Middle-earth is on the minds of a large multitude lately, mine included!  It gives me the greatest pleasure to share with you one of my recent and favorite paintings from the studio, a portrait of J.R.R. Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien     42" x 33"     Oil on Panel    2012

I cannot begin to tell how excited I was to undertake this commission to celebrate the brilliant mind that has thrilled readers for generations and inspired artists like myself with riches of stories and characters to fill visionary paintings.  From the simple beginnings of Bilbo and the Dwarves in The Hobbit, to the personal trials of Frodo and the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings, to the epic tragedies in The Silmarillion, I do not think I could ever exhaust the emotional depths nor narratives of his stories in building a lifetime of images based upon the world of Middle-earth.

I consider this portrait a token 'thank you' back to Tolkien for what he has provided to me in my own life lessons - the best of my labors to honor the man who gave us the best of his imagination.

Taking a cue from the rich depths of his writings and world building, this painting is filled with many  references to the realm of Middle-earth.  Here we see the scholar at work at his desk in the studio at Oxford just after the publication of The Return of the King, or his he laboring in a room at Bag End?  The round window recalls those described at Bilbo's and Frodo's residence on the Hill.  Out the window we see the large tree in a meadow, the gathering place for the opening celebration in The Fellowship of A Long-Expected Party.

There are many more fun elements in this work!

 The chair is a gift to Bag End from King Elessar (better known as Aragorn), and carries the crest of the Kings of Gondor woven into its fabric backing.

 On the desk we find Tolkien leafing through illustrations of the barrel rider from The Hobbit, designs for the glowing runes defining the doorway into Moria, and lastly unfinished manuscript pages waiting to be compiled by his son Christopher into The Silmarillion.

Drifting up from the desk are wisps of smoke shaping into a flight of eagles, the representatives of the Valar in Middle-earth. Tucked into the book shelves are first edition copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and in the far left shelf is an old faded copy of Beowolf, a nod to the inspirations which Tolkien himself tapped into for direction with his mythologies.

Lastly, resting in the lower left corner, is a set of teacups bearing the crests of Beren and Luthien, the two lovers portrayed in the most epic of love stories from The Silmarillion.  Tolkien designed these symbols and always thought of his wife as Luthien and himself as Beren, so much so that he had these names carved on their gravestones.  I thought it romantic that we have caught Tolkien in his study just as he was having tea with the woman he loved so dearly.

Thank you for taking a trip with me into the world I love.  I have also included a few recent drawings from sketchbooks and a limited-edition volume of my book on Tolkien's world, Middle-earth:Vision of a Modern Myth.


For those of you interested in purchasing a limited edition giclee of the portrait, I have released them in a very small quantity in two sizes on paper.  They can be found on my site at

Escape from Orthanc    11" x 14"    Watercolor Pencil and Chalk on Paper   2012

Aragorn in Arnor    8.5" x 11"   Watercolor Pencil and Chalk on Paper   2012

The Black Arrow    11" x 14"    Watercolor Pencil and Chalk on Paper   2012


  1. Mr.Giancola the portrait and drawings are wonderful and capture the wonder of Mr. Tolkien's works. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Absolutely stunning! A fitting tribute that could only have been done by the handful of artists out there that have 'lived' so passionately in Tolkien's works. The inclusion of so many elements of the stories and his life ... expertly done. A beautiful painting!

  3. Magnificent, Donato! Another benchmark!

  4. This is beautiful work. The intimate details add such richness to this portrait.

  5. Beautiful work yet again, Donato!

  6. Wonderful portrait Dan.
    Tim O'Brien

  7. This is a fantastic portrait of the Professor! Any chance of prints being available for purchase?

  8. This is gorgeous, Donato. They couldn't have chosen a better person than you to paint this portrait. Put together with the love and depth that characterize your work in general. Thank you, both for doing everything you do with your whole soul, and for sharing this work, with some of its details.

  9. Dan, this is now one of my favorite paintings! You and Tolkien have inspired so many of us with your works and I think this is the perfect homage to him. Gorgeous as always!

  10. Beautiful portrait! Thank you for posting it and the details as well.

  11. I am completely slack jawed. Donato this easily one of your best works. It is so evident here that this must have been a labour of love for you. Congratulations on the commission, you certainly where the right person for the job. Just amazing work.

    1. Thank you all for the kind words and comments on the portrait. I little bit more information on the painting, it landed my first ever medal from the Society of Illustrators Annual show in the editorial division - A Gold! What a wonderful way to recognize both mine and Tolkien's accomplishments in this 75th Anniversary year of The Hobbit.

      I will have some more Middle-earth images to share shortly...


  12. Wonderful piece Donato. And the Gold in Editorial is a monumental achievement. Pretty cliquish over there in editorial. Well done.

  13. This is so amazing! I had such a great pleasure in seeing your work in person at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live and that gives me an even greater perspective on just how special this piece is. Wow! Of course I cannot pass up the request for you to bring this one with you to Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2! :)

  14. Truly incredible! The level of detail is astounding. I will echo Carl V.'s thoughts in hopes we see you again at SFA 2 this upcoming year.

  15. So beautiful, wonderful job as always, Donato! Hope to see you at SFA2


Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only

Start typing and press Enter to search