Alan Lee (born 20 August 1947) is an English book illustrator and film conceptual designer. He is best known for his artwork inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, and for his work on the conceptual design of Peter Jackson's film adaptations of Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series.
|Born||20 August 1947|
Middlesex, England, United Kingdom
|Education||Ealing School of Art|
|Known for||Illustration, painting, conceptual design|
|Awards||Chesley Award |
Kate Greenaway Medal
World Fantasy Award
Lee has illustrated dozens of fantasy books, including some non-fiction, and many more covers. Among the numerous works by J. R. R. Tolkien that he has illustrated are the 1992 centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings, a 1999 edition of The Hobbit, the 2007 The Children of Húrin, the 2017 Beren and Lúthien and the 2018 The Fall of Gondolin. Non-Tolkien books he has illustrated include Faeries (with Brian Froud), Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock, The Mabinogion (two versions), Castles by David Day, The Mirrorstone by Michael Palin, The Moon's Revenge by Joan Aiken, and Merlin Dreams by Peter Dickinson.
He has illustrated retellings of classics for young people. Two were Rosemary Sutcliff's versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey—namely, Black Ships Before Troy (Oxford, 1993) and The Wanderings of Odysseus (Frances Lincoln, 1995). Another was Adrian Mitchell's version of Ovid's Metamorphoses—namely, Shapeshifters (Frances Lincoln, 2009).
Lee made cover paintings for the 1983 Penguin edition of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. He also did the artwork for Alive!, a 2007 CD by the Dutch band Omnia, released during the Castlefest festival.
Lee and John Howe were the lead concept artists of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films and were recruited by director Guillermo del Toro in 2008 for continuity of design in the subsequent The Hobbit films, before joining Jackson when he took over the Hobbit films project. Jackson has explained how he originally recruited the reclusive Lee. By courier to Lee's home in the south of England, he sent two of his previous films, Forgotten Silver and Heavenly Creatures, with a note from himself and Fran Walsh that piqued Lee's interest enough for him to become involved. Lee went on to illustrate and even to help construct many of the scenarios for the movies, including objects and weapons for the actors. He made two cameo appearances: in the opening sequence of The Fellowship as one of the nine kings of men who became the Nazgûl; and in The Two Towers as a Rohan soldier in the armoury (over the shoulder of Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn who is talking to Legolas in Elvish).
Lee worked as a conceptual designer on the films Legend, Erik the Viking, King Kong and the television mini-series Merlin. The art book Faeries, produced in collaboration with Brian Froud, was the basis of a 1981 animated feature of the same name.
Two years after completion of The Lord of the Rings film series, Lee released a 192-page collection of his conceptual artwork for the project, entitled The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook (HarperCollins, 2005). Peter Jackson said, "His art captured what I hoped to capture with the films."
For illustrating Merlin Dreams by Peter Dickinson (1988), he won the annual Chesley Award for Best Interior Illustration and he was a highly commended runner-up for the Greenaway Medal.[a] He also won the BSFA Award for Best Artwork, for that year's best single new image.
Five years later, he won the Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British subject. The book was Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff, a version of the Trojan War story.
For the 60th anniversary edition of The Hobbit, Tolkien's 1937 classic, Lee won his second Chesley Award for Interior Illustration (he is a finalist eight times through 2011). For that year's work he won the annual World Fantasy Award, Best Artist, at the 1998 World Fantasy Convention.
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