Karen Haber Reviews Middle-earth Journeys in Myth and Legend by Donato Giancola

Middle-earth Journeys in Myth and Legend, Donato Giancola (Dark Horse 978-1-50671-086-0, $29.99, 199pp, hc) April 2019. Cover by Donato Giancola.

Much-awarded and acclaimed classical realist artist Donato Giancola has such technical mastery that he is able to depict powerful, memorable im­ages in both SF and fantasy throughout his career. From spacesuits to hobbits, he can and has done it all. Here he takes a deep, delicious dive into all things Tolkien.

He’s been called “the Caravaggio of Middle-earth,” and even other masters of the field asso­ciated with Tolkien hail him. Says John Howe, “There’s more to Donato Giancola’s art than just a pretty face. Underneath the incredibly meticulous surface of his paintings is concealed a love of perspective and form, an intimate understanding of the human body, a historian’s knowledge of costume and armor, an infallible sense of implicit narrative, visual storytelling, and mythical history.”

In this deluxe compendium from Dark Horse Books, Giancola provides many paintings, full-page spreads and two-page spreads, details, preliminary sketches, and other work. His engage­ment with the subject matter is obvious.

Giancola shares his process generously, which isn’t surprising, considering he teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

The operatic power of his large-scale work, featured here in two-page spreads – “Beren and Luthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian”, p. 182-183, “Faramir at Osgiliath”, pg. 142-143 – is awesome. Each painting is an invitation to get lost not only in the narrative but in composition, color, and texture as employed by a master artist. His treatment of light on fabric is worth careful study.

The book is organized around each of Tolkien’s books. The color reproduction and clarity of the sketches make each page a pleasure. A table of contents might have added to the reader’s enjoy­ment. The design of the book is somber with black-on-gray endpapers and black framing on many of the full-color spreads and portraits

Publisher Dark Horse has gone all-in on this volume, aiming for and achieving coffee table status. Lovers of Tolkien’s work and of fine paint­ing will welcome this book in their collections.

This review and more like it in the December 2020 issue of Locus.

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyWhile you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field.

©Locus Magazine. Copyrighted material may not be republished without permission of LSFF.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *