Alan Lee - The Art of Middle-Earth
A tribute to Alan Lee, best known as the illustrator of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Alan Lee was born in London in 1947. Studying graphic art and design, Lee was fascinated by myth and folklore from a very young age.
Alan found work in book illustration, following in the footsteps of popular 19th century illustrators Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham.
Lee worked in London until the mid-seventies when he moved to Dartmoor with his wife Marja Lee Kruvt, also an artist.
In 1978 Lee and fellow artist Brian Froud designed and illustrated the book Faeries which became a bestseller.
Alan Lee soon became known as one of Britain’s best book illustrators. Among his works are Black Ships BeforeTroy - The Story of the Iliad, Merlin Dreams, The Mabinogion and special lavishly illustrated anniversary editions of The Lord of the Rings in 1991 and The Hobbit in 1997.
Alan Lee worked as conceptual designer for Ridley Scott’s film Legend (1985), he also provided design work for Terry Jones comedy fantasy Erik the Viking (1989). In 1998 he worked as illustrator on the Hallmark TV epic Merlin (1998).
In November 1997 Alan Lee was contacted by Peter Jackson who told him he was a big fan of his work and if he would like to work on his latest project – The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Three weeks later Lee flew to New Zealand where he joined fellow artist John Howe and the design team at Weta.
The three movies were massively successful and Lee shared an Oscar win for Art direction on Return of the King, and shared a nomination for Art Direction on The Two Towers.
Lee was among the winners for The Two Towers Art Direction presented by the Visual Effects Society. Lee remained in New Zealand for six years before returning to Dartmoor.
Lee can be spotted right at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring as one of the nine Kings of Men in the prologue. And he was also one of the men of Rohan at Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.
Alan Lee has also worked as concept designer on Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) and concept painter on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).
Lee has illustrated many Tolkien calendars and a Tolkien Diary. And his book The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook Portfolio was published in 2001 which contains 150 sketches and 20 full colour paintings. The foreword is by Sir Ian McKellen.
He is currently working as concept designer on Peter Jackson’s three upcoming Hobbit movies – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (2014).
More by this Author
A tribute to one of the great fantasy artists, Boris Vallejo.
A tribute to one of the great SF artists, Bruce Pennington.
A Chronology of Fantasy Film Posters 1980-1989. With facts and ratings.