1986 Tolkien Calendar - Ballantine

1986. Ballantine. The 1986 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. ISBN: 0-345-32505-2. 11.5 x 12in. Middle-earth dates. Artwork by Michael Hague from images made for the illustrated Hobbit. When Michael Hague's illustrated Hobbit was published in the early 1980's, I distinctly recall buying more than one copy. It is one of the best editions of The Hobbit ever produced. Michael Hague's style is clearly derived from the history of childrens illustration that essentially began with Arthur Rackham, N. C. Wyeth and others who helped develop the childrens illustrated books of the 1920's and 1930's. Advances in color printing allowed publishers to produce inexpensive books with illustrations in full color. This allowed illustrators much greater flexibility in design and style. Childrens illustration flourished and an artistic "movement" began. It has become refined to the point where the story really takes a back seat to the illustrations. Compare Teasure Island, illustrated by N. C. Wyeth, to The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess. The story essentially supports the illustrations in the latter book, rather than the other way around. In this environment, Michael Hague's style is certainly more in keeping with the tradition of illustration practiced by the early illustrators, such as N. C. Wyeth. Since The Hobbit is a long narrative, he was a good choice to provide illustrations. The only other illustrator of Tolkien's work with a similar background was Pauline Baynes. Most illustrators who have provided artwork for Tolkien calendars, such as Darrell Sweet, The Brothers Hildebrandt and John Howe, come from the relatively modern, post-Tolkien world of fantasy illustration. Many of these illustrators create many more book covers, posters, graphic novels and other artwork that is not designed for insertion in the pages of a long narrative work. The difference is immediately apparent. Michael Hague's work is understated and this keeps the reader involved in the story. Imagine reading the Hobbit and coming across an illustration by the Brothers Hildebrandt. The high drama and strong characterizations would probably detract from the narrative. Michael Hague' artwork has a luminous quality that is most pronounced in night-time images. Aside from Gandalf's gigantic hat, he maintains the high degree of internal consistency required to illustrate The Hobbit. Many images from the Hobbit are not in this calendar. I strongly recommend tracking down a copy of the book if you don't have one already. I also recommend The Rainbow Fairy Book illustrated by Michael Hague. In addition to illustrations, this book has a number of the early fairy tales collected by Andrew Lange that influenced the writing of The Hobbit.

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