Episode 30—What Tolkien’s Visual Art Tells Us About His Creative Mind—John McQuillen and Holly Ordway

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 26, 2019

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While Tolkien’s brilliance as a world-builder and storyteller is well-established, fewer people are aware of just how unique (and obsessive) his creative process was, or that he was a gifted visual artist. That is changing thanks to an unprecedented exhibition of Tolkien’s personal items, manuscripts and artworks, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth, currently on display until May 12 at the Morgan Library in Manhattan.

John McQuillen, Assistant Curator at the Morgan Library, and Holly Ordway, author of the upcoming study Tolkien’s Modern Sources, join me to discuss the exhibition, which sheds light on Tolkien’s use of visual art to help him solidify his literary vision, the role his stories and artworks played in his family life, and (perhaps surprising to many who view Tolkien as a conservative fuddy-duddy) his willingness to draw on an eclectic range of sources, including distinctly modern ones, to enhance his creative expression.


Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth at the Morgan (view selected images from the exhibition) https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/tolkien

The exhibition book, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth by Catherine McIlwaine https://www.amazon.com/Tolkien-Maker-Middle-earth-Catherine-McIlwaine/dp/1851244859

Holly Ordway http://www.hollyordway.com/

Sheen Center for Thought & Culture https://www.sheencenter.org/

Past Tolkien-related episodes

Episode 15: Online Education with The Tolkien Professor—Corey Olsen https://www.catholicculture.org/podcast/index.cfm?id=15

Episode 16: Extremely Specific Middle-earth Q&A with The Tolkien Professor—Corey Olsen https://www.catholicculture.org/podcast/index.cfm?id=16

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All podcast music by Thomas V. Mirus unless otherwise stated.

Thomas V. Mirus is a pianist, composer, and occasional amateur comedian living in New York City. He produces and hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

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