Inspired By the lord of the rings

A Singular Chess Set

Lord of the Rings Chess Set. Black.  Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

  

Each design is unique. Each piece is bronze.  The white queen was based on Girard's then wife, Bonnie. The white pawns’ playful attitudes were inspired by his young son, Christopher. 


 This set was only cast once. Displayed in slide show format, below. 

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Illustrious Illustrations

Lord of the Rings Illustration. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

A suite of 14 wildly inventive pen and ink illustrations drawn from the Lord of the Rings by Bill Girard. 

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Related Drawings

Lord of the Rings Illustration. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Bill created additional drawings based on the Lort of the Rings, not included in the  (admittedly arbitrary) "suite." 

Some may have been preparatory. Others might have been "discards." Some just demanded to be drawn.  


The story elements depicted in some of these is not clear (to me). Your insights are welcome.

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Lord of the Rings Drawing. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Illustrious Illustrations

The Lord of the Rings Suite of Bill Girard

Bill was clearly gripped by  J. R. R. Tolkien’s tales of  "little" people sallying forth on fearsome adventures against overwhelming odds and deliciously malign adversaries.  His chess pieces and his drawings constitute a fairly astonishing commitment to not only to Tolkien's vision, but to his own.


 Fraught and witty, certain of his prints are clearly Aubrey Beardsley-esque. Others, more complex, are pure Girard. 


His signature prints gleefully play negative and positive spaces against each other in a fabulously exciting, essentially interactive, mixture of story and design, texture and pattern.


I apologize that this website refuses to let me share these images in the larger format they so richly deserve.


Bill's LOR drawings are special. Yes, they are illustrations. But what they illustrate is that illustration - in the right hands -  can be irreproachably  fine art. 


Caveat. I have not been able to study these images first hand. Per their current owner, they are pen and ink originals. They were created for Bill's life-long collector and patron,  Allen Abramson (1930-2016), last of Farmington Hills, Michigan.


All images courtesy of photographer Ken Weikal, Farmington Hills, Michigan.

FYI

The  images in the "suite" appear below. They are cropped to maximize image  size for this website. Most of the originals are formatted as small posters with hand-written text and inscriptions. See the example above.  


Detroit News art critic, Joy Hakanson:


"TO DATE, one of Girard's most impressive accomplishments is a set of illustrations he did for J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings...' 


"Whether one likes Girard's kind of art or loathes it, he is someone to respect in a world that fights for freedom but humiliates its prophets." 


Exploring the World of a Young Eccentric (July 30, 1967)

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The Lady E'owyn of Rohan. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered text: The Lady E'owyn of Rohan

This image also appeared on the front cover of a gallery exhibit catalog for a solo exhibit sponsored by Allen Abramson (Bill's patron) and Betty Kleinbaum at Sliver's on 16350 Woodward Avenue, Highland Park, MI.  The catalog is dated: October 6, 1967. 


As this  image is the least complex of the set and because its hand-lettered text is so terse, I suspect this was the first image created in the suite presented here. 


I should add that there is no direct evidence that this series was conceived as a suite beyond the shared circular format of the images themselves and the artist's approach to the sheet, which suggests an intent to create a poster-like image.


The flaming flower mandalas are a nice touch So is the horse pendant. She who wears it is, after all, a princess of the Rohirrim, the Horse Lords.


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.


Signed: Girard

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Mumak! MUMAK! drawing Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: (Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit) Chapter 4 Book IV The Two Towers By JRR Tolkien

Hand-lettered text: Mumak! MUMAK! The Ruins of What Seemed To Be A Very War-Tower Lay Upon His Heaving Back, Smashed In His Furious Passage Through The Woods

 

How would Bill have explained the "furious" man-in-the-moon face in this  image, as compared with the "benign"  man-in-the-moon in the following image (The Palantir)? 


Just now, I don't know. 


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967

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The Palantir drawing. The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: (The Palantir) Chapter 11. Book III Part 2. The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien

Hand-lettered text: 'Will You, Aragorn, Take The Orthanc-Stone and Guard It? It Is A Dangerous Charge.'

 

Look at that! The negative space  of  the image is actually the profile of a "man in the moon," observing the action. 


 How would Bill have explained the "benign"  man-in-the-moon in this  image, as compared with the  the "furious" version in the preceding  image (Mumak! MUMAK!)?  


Just now, I don't know.


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.


Signed:  Girard (bottom of the image)

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At the Sign of The Prancing Pony. Pen/ink drawing . Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: (At the Sign of The Prancing Pony) Chapter 9 Book I The Fellowship of the Ring

Hand-lettered text: There was loud and long applause. Frodo had a good Voice, and the Song tickled their Fancy.  


The face  that gnaws this orb is singularly malicious. The ring on the right hand (left side) suggests its owner is the Dark Lord, himself.


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967

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Minas Tirith Pen/ink drawing . Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: Chapter 1. Book 4. Part III (The Return Of The King) By J.R.R. Tolkien

Hand-lettered text: Minas Tirith


According to Tolkien, this was the seat of Gondor, a stone city built on seven levels, each gated, guarding the Citadel and the White Tower. 


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


Note: A depiction of the capital city of Gondor. 

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Mirror of Galadriel. Pen/ink drawing . Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: (The Mirror of Galadriel) Chapter 7 Book II. Part I. The Fellowship of the Ring

Hand-lettered text: In the Black Abyss There appeared a single Eye That Slowly grew, until it filled nearly all the mirror.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


Note the somewhat cat-like creature atop the column on the left and the black creature directly in front of the "mirror."


Having not previously studied these images closely, I am intrigued by the reappearance of the encircling "man-in-the-moon" facing right. 


As Galadriel is a Queen of the Elves, for whom the moon and moonlight are magical tokens of grace, this association seems apt. 


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.

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The Battle of The Pelennor Fields Pen /  ink drawing. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: The Battle of The Pelennor Fields) Chapter 6 Book V. The Return Of The King

Hand-lettered text: 'BEG-one, Foul Dwimmerlaik, Lord of Carrian! LEAVE THE DEAD IN PEACE!'


The odd thing is not that Bill apparently  made two transcription errors: BEG-one and Carrian  (instead of carrion). More shocking is that most of his inscriptions and text transcriptions are correct. Bill was a tremendously creative speller as his many letters to me demonstrate.


Depicted is the fateful meeting of the  armed Lady Eowyn and the Ringwraith, Lord of the Nazgul , beside the mortally wounded King of the Mark, Theoden, and his steed, Snowmane.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.

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Mumak! MUMAK! Pen / ink drawing Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: (Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit) Chapter 4 Book IV The Two Towers By J.R.R. Tolkien

Hand-lettered text: Men of Both Side Fled Before Him. But Many He Overtook And Crushed To The Ground.


This is the only scene from the story that Bill tackled twice. And while this is a lovely drawing and design, it is my guess that he was not satisfied. (Version 1?)


The other version (Mumak! MUMAK!) seen above, is a more successful visualization of the event here described. it is also far more inventive and dramatic. 


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.

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 Flight To The Ford. Pen/Ink . Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Hand-lettered title: Flight To The Ford Chapter 12 Book 1 The Fellowship Of The Ring J.R.R. Tolkien

Hand-lettered text: The Wind Whistled In His Ears, And The Bells Upon The Harness Rang Wild and Shrill.


Depicted here is the high point of one the more dramatic chase scenes described in three books full of them. A sorely wounded Frodo races (on an elfin horse)  to escape nine Black Riders, servants of the Dark Lord, of whom three have entered the Ford. 


Girard has used flower-like shapes to evoke splashing and flowing water in a manner I find  masterful.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.

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The Riders of Rohan. Pen / Ink. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Inscription: (The Riders of Rohan) Chapter 2. Book III The Two Towers By JRR Tolkien

 Hand-lettered text: 'Come, you Shall Sit Behind Me, Friend Gimli,' Said Legolas. 'Then All Will Be Well, And You Need Neither Borrow A Horse Nor Be Troubled By One.'


Signed/Dated 1967


Here Legolas, the elf, stretches out a hand to Gimli, the dwarf, axe in hand, to help him climb the war horse loaned them by the Riders of the Mark.


 See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above. 

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The Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Inscription: (The Stairs of Cirith Ungol) Chapter 8 Part II Book IV The Two Towers By JRR Tolkien

 Hand-lettered text: 


Minas Morgul 

The Topmost Course Of The Tower Revolved Slowly, First One Way And Then Another, A Huge Ghostly Head Leering Into The Night.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


The drawing technique employed here shares some characteristics of the other pieces, but is as heavy and dread-laden as the subject. Dense hatching has sucked the light out of this image.


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.  

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The Passage of the Marshes. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Inscription: The Passage of the Marshes Chapter 2, Book IV The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien

Hand-lettered text: 'HA! HA! WHAT DOES WE WISH?' HE SAID, Looking Sidelong AT THE HOBBITS. 'WE'LL TELL YOU,'


Depicted: Frodo Baggins, Gollum and Sam Gamgee (left to right)


The mood of this drawing seems rather lighter than the scene depicted in the book.  But at this moment, there is some gladness in the fact that Gollum has caught a fish:  something edible.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


 See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.   

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Bilbo Baggins' Home, Bag End, Hobbiton.  Pen /  Ink. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Presumably, Bilbo Baggins' Home, Bag End, in Hobbiton

 This image has neither an inscription nor hand-lettered text to identify it. 


Nonetheless, it seems a fair image of the Hobbit residences described at such length by Tolkien, located in the Shire.


It is hard to escape the surmise that Bilbo Baggins' home is featured here.   Bilbo upon his departure from the Shire, willed it to Frodo, the preeminent Hobbit hero of the Lord of the Rings.


Signed: Girard


See the full sheet,  in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.    

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The Last Debate. Pen / Ink. Estate of A. Abramson. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011

Inscription: (The Last Debate) Chapter 9 Book V The Return of the King By JRR Tolkien

Hand-lettered text: To Every Ship They Came That Was Drawn Up, And Then They Passed Over The Water To Those That Were Anchored.


Signed/Dated: Girard 1967


Shown here is the attack of the Shadow(y) Host upon the ships of men allied with the Dark Lord. 


Once again, a "man-in-the-moon"  - this time of a clearly ghoulish nature - hugs the (right) perimeter of the image. It seems to be exhaling the ghostly warriors.


The variety of textures and tonal qualities achieved here is wonderful. But it's fun, too.  Girard's wit lightens a fearsome event without robbing it of seriousness.


See the full sheet, with inscription, in a smaller format, in LOR Prints & Drawings, above.  

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