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Alan Lee in 2003

Alan Lee (b. August 20, 1947 in Middlesex, England) is an English painter, book illustrator, and movie conceptual designer.

He and John Howe are considered the two most famous Tolkien artists, and their drawings ended up being authoritative for most of the art direction of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.


Alan Lee was educated at Ealing School of Art in London. He went on to illustrate many fantasy books such as the centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings, Faeries (with Brian Froud), The Mabinogion, Castles and Merlin Dreams. He won the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration in 1993 for Black Ships before Troy and the Best Artist Award at the World Fantasy Awards of 1998.

Having reached significance as illustrators, Lee and John Howe were chosen to act as the lead artists of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, starting in 2000. Lee illustrated many of the scenarios for the movies, including objects and weapons for the actors. Costume personnel Ngila Dickson considered him a "team leader" of the crew of designers.[1] In 2004, Lee won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction for his work on the third film in the trilogy, The Return of the King. He made cameo appearances in the other two films. Lee has also worked as a conceptual designer on the films Legend, Erik the Viking and King Kong and the television miniseries Merlin. John Howe and he would later work again with Peter Jackson, on The Hobbit trilogy beginning in 2011.

"My chief concern in illustrating The Lord of the Rings was in attempting to provide a visual accompaniment for the story without interfering with, or dislodging, the pictures the author is carefully building up in the reader's mind. I felt that my task lay in shadowing the heroes on their epic quest, often at a distance, closing in on them at times of heightened emotion but avoiding trying to re-create the dramatic high points of the text."
from Tolkien's World: Paintings of Middle-earth [2]

Alan Lee in 2018 at the Edinburgh National Book Festival

A major portfolio of Lee's Middle-earth illustrations was published in 2005 as The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook, which gained immense popularity. In 2008, Lee provided an Afterword in Tales from the Perilous Realm, for which he illustrated. He went on to provide cover and interior drawings for the publications of Tolkien's Great Tales: The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin.

He resides with his family in Chagford, Devonshire, England.

Illustration appearances

Lee's art is shown in collections such as Tolkien's World: Paintings of Middle-earth, Realms of Tolkien, and Gary Russell's The Art of... series for Peter Jackson's films.

For images of his illustrations, see Art by Alan Lee.

Film cameos

Lee, second from right, as one of the Kings given the Nine Rings of Power

Alan Lee played one of the nine Kings of Men, future Nazgûl, in the Prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as a Man of Rohan in The Two Towers, and a Lake-town musician in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. These three roles were uncredited.[3]


  • 1978 - Locus Awards, best illustrated book (Nominated)
  • 1989 - Chesley Awards, Best Interior Illustration, for book Merlin's Dreams
  • 1993 - CILIP, Kate Greenaway Medal for best children's book illustration

See also


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