The work of internationally renowned artist John Howe is celebrated with a new publication and retrospective exhibition of his astounding work.


John Howe is arguably the world’s most well-known and well-respected fantasy artist, creating intricate paintings and illustrations for amongst other projects, Peter Jackson's film adaptations of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Amazon's Rings of Power, as well as being the creative lead behind an extensive catalogue of the most spectacular illustrated books for fans of dragons, fantasy, mythical worlds, wizards, witches, and magical beasts.


John's most recent publication is entitled Following the Trails of Tolkien and the Medieval Imaginary World, inspired by the work featured in the exhibition. This book celebrates John’s work in world creation, concept art, character design and fine art. A pictural exploration of his career and work with the likes of Tolkien, this book and show cement his pivotal role in bringing this genre to a worldwide audience.


This month Arena Illustration's Tamlyn Francis and Art Director Nghiem Ta embarked on an epic adventure to France and travelled there and back again to visit this breath-taking showcase of over 200 pieces of John's work. Here’s a little bit about their trip and some photos to give you a taste of just how magnificent the show and book are. 



“It was an opportunity not to be missed. John Howe was posting images of his upcoming exhibition. The scale and quantity of work on display looked ‘epic’! 

Six trains later, in Landerneau, France, the exhibition was in front of us. The entrance area showcased a piece of animation that made you feel like you were standing at the base of a castle and dragons flew overhead. Large light box walls displayed pieces of art that were now life-size. Each wall of framed art, stood together in carefully chosen themes, then occasionally they were supported by a stunning enveloping backdrop. 

From a William Morris tapestry to a suit of medieval armour, inspiring source material and complimentary artworks echo John’s approaches to his work. Little monitors screened interview clips with John, my favourite was of John sketching. I’ve always been fascinated by how John holds a pencil!

Familiar works of art will leap out at you from John’s work in books, film and television, but at the end of a corridor of light box walls, stood a personal favourite – The Doors of Heorot. I can still remember the day when I collected this painting from the post room. To this day, it’s still the largest piece of art to cross my desk.

The work is one of many that retell the epic saga of Beowulf (Templar Publishing). It was heart-warming to be reunited with these works of art again – even Grendel’s mother! 

I was so pleased for John to have this beautifully curated exhibition. It was wonderful to see the visitors’ admiration and the wonder from classes of schoolchildren with their clipboards. 

I hope many more people around the world can get the opportunity to see John’s art in this exhibition.”

Art Director Nghiem Ta

What a truely unique exhibition. John Howe is a mystical storyteller and magical worldbuilder. A modern master for the twenty first century.

Nghiem was a marvellous travelling companion for our train journey from London to Landerneau a town set in a beautiful area of Brittany. The scale of the show was epic and having long been a fan of John's work, it was amazing to see it all collected together on such a large scale. It was thoughtfully presented and the artworks were shown in groups by concept, not chronilogically as you would expect,  John has visited and re-visited themes throughout his long career and this was the perfect way to describe his practice. The paintings were beautifully hung with enormous illustrated wallpapers as a backdrop to each themed room, the open doors of which were like oversized illuminated books inviting the vistor to experience the different atmospheres within the spaces.


The exhibition ran until the end of January and the catalogue is available to purchase now.

For more information about John's work please email or visit his online portfolio HERE.

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