Illustrating the Character within Tolkien’s Tales… – The Women Artists – A Special Report

by Apr 8, 2004Essays

Visiting Shadowfax by Anke Eissmann“Visiting Shadowfax” by Anke Eissmann

“Eissmann, Chmiel and Dolfen…they all manage to capture character in a very special way.” says TORC message board poster ‘NienorNiniel.’ “Many male artists paint people just as people. These three women do not only show the person, but also how he or she feels, the spirit, who this is. Just as Tolkien wrote it.”

“Who?” many might ask. Who are Eissmann, Chmiel, and Dolfen?  Fans of Tolkien’s works are often familiar with the illustrators Howe, Lee, Nasmith, as well as a few other artists who’s work has appeared in Tolkien books, calendars, and posters. Certainly Lee’s water colors, Howe’s battle scenes, and Nasmith’s MiddleEarthscapes are well known and admired by  Tolkien fans.

But among the Tolkien illustrators used by the publishing companies, it seems there are few, if any, women artists.

Nazgul flee Crickhollow by Toni-Marie HudsonNazgul flee Crickhollow by Toni-Marie Hudson“I think it’s just coincidence that the three biggest Tolkien artists (Howe, Lee and Nasmith) happen to be male.” says TORC poster ‘Lalatiel’. “There are plenty of excellent female artists out there, like Anke [Eissman], and many, many more… Anna Baldassare, Hope Hoover and Toni-Marie Hudson…”

“I guess that, the publishers only tend to use the works of a few artists – mostly Alan Lee, John Howe, and Ted Nasmith – because these ones have already established their position as noted Tolkien artists. That hasn’t happened to most of the female artists yet….It may be just a question of time,” says TORC message board poster ‘Rowenberry’

Tolkien fan Thomas Streeten says: “I find that both genders draw pictures based on what draws them into Tolkien’s works. Generally speaking, male artists such as John Howe and Alan Lee focus more on the world of Middle Earth, the architecture, the landscapes and interpretations of its creatures. Female artists, I would argue, are drawn into Tolkien through the characters and thus they focus on the nobility and beauty of the people that live in Middle Earth”

 Beleg's death by Anke EissmanBeleg’s death by Anke Eissman“My opinion of the male vs. female artists is that, men tend to focus on “big” events and action, whereas women focus on characters, and find a lot to portray in the more quiet moments of the story, or even in failure and defeat.” continues  ‘Rowanberry’.  ” Look at, for example, Anke’s Túrin after accidentally having killed Beleg, Jenny’s Fingon slain, or Catherine Chmiel’s Faramir saying farewell to Boromir, who is leaving for Rivendell”

“Certainly the female illustrators tend, in general, to focus on character and emotional interaction more than many of the more well known male illustrators do.” says message board poster ‘Elmtree’. “Catherine Chmiel’s ‘The Rescue of Maedhros from Thangorodrim’ illustrates an epic story from the Silmarillion, yet the piece captures not only the action, but the faces and emotions of the characters involved, with great intensity.  I was not very interested in reading the Silmarillion before I saw that bit of artwork. But in a flash, it grabbed me. The suffering and intensity of the piece made me want to know WHO these characters were, and what happened to them..”

TORC message board poster ‘Yvanna’ had a similar experience: “Anke’s Faramir really makes me appreciate him deeper. When I saw her Faramir, I was inspired to get to know the character better. Just like both artist’s (Chmiel and Eissmann) art made some people read the Sil.”

We give you some samples of the works of women Tolkien illustrators on this page. And in the following weeks, we hope to feature some of them individually, displaying more of their artwork, and learning how they were drawn into illustrating Tolkien’s works.

Finrod dreaming by the waters of Sirion by Jenny DolfenFinrod dreaming by the waters of Sirion by Jenny Dolfen
And Maglor took Pity on Them by Catherine Karina ChmielAnd Maglor took Pity on Them by Catherine Karina Chmiel
Luthien prepares her escape from Hirilorn by Anke EissmannLuthien prepares her escape from Hirilorn by Anke Eissmann
Seek for the Sword that was Catherine ChmielSeek for the Sword that was Broken…by Catherine Chmiel
Nirnaeth Arnoediad - Unnumbered Tears by Jenny DolfenNirnaeth Arnoediad – Unnumbered Tears by Jenny Dolfen


Submit a Comment

Found in Home 5 Reading Room 5 Essays 5 Illustrating the Character within Tolkien’s Tales… – The Women Artists – A Special Report

You may also like…

Tolkien’s Shades of Gray

A paper I wrote for a class on Tolkien at Portland State University, which I thought other fans may like to read, dealing with the perception some people have of The Lord of the Rings as a simplistic tale of good triumphing over evil, and why I think that perception fails to take in the nuances and complexities of Tolkien’s created world.

read more