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Hildebrandt, The Brothers

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist, Author.

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Working name for the team of American artists Gregory J Hildebrandt (1939-    ) and Timothy Mark Allen Hildebrandt (1939-2006), identical twin brothers, although they also worked separately using the working names Greg Hildebrandt and Tim Hildebrandt. They will forever be regarded primarily as the definitive illustrators of J R R Tolkien because of the famous Tolkien calendars that featured their paintings of his characters; oddly enough, except for one 1975 edition of Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham (1969), they never actually illustrated any of Tolkien's books.

Their early lives were largely parallel: they attended the same high school, joined the Army Reserve for the same period of time, and jointly attended an art school for eight months before dropping out to pursue careers in art. After working several years on animated films and documentary films, they began doing work for children's books before they decided to try getting an assignment to illustrate an upcoming Tolkien calendar. The unexpected popularity of the results – their 1976, 1977, and 1978 Tolkien calendars – led to assignments to do book covers, most prominently Terry Brooks's very Tolkienesque The Sword of Shannara (1977); their cover and interior artwork has been credited with contributing to the book's great success. But they did some works of sf as well, such as their cover for a 1976 edition of Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang (coll of linked stories 1969), showing the ethereal image of a beautiful woman behind a spaceship, and their covers for the two 1976 paperback volumes of Lester del Rey's The Early Del Rey (coll 1975), one showing a clown and two skulls, the other a man and robot surveying a futuristic cityscape, with both scenes emerging from an old-fashioned typewriter. They also did posters for films, prominently including their renowned poster for Star Wars (1977) featuring Luke Skywalker brandishing a light saber; later, they painted a similar, but less successful poster for Clash of the Titans (1981). Disappointed to learn that their work would not be employed in Ralph Bakshi's animated version of The Lord of the Rings (1978), the brothers developed their own idea for a fantasy movie which eventually emerged in the form of a book, Urshurak (1979), which they co-wrote with Jerry Nichols and illustrated. The disappointing failure of this undistinguished work contributed to their decision to pursue separate careers in the 1980s.

As one might expect from identical twins who had long collaborated, the separate works of Greg and Tim Hildebrandt were not dissimilar, though Greg's paintings tended to be more sombre and focused than Tim's busier and more colourful productions. During their separation, Greg mostly concentrated on illustrated children's books, while Tim did numerous book covers and contributed art to a horror film, The Deadly Spawn (1983). The brothers reunited in the mid-1990s to again work together, producing some paintings of Marvel Comics and DC Comics Superheroes among other works, until the partnership was ended by Tim's fading health and eventual death from diabetes in 2006. Greg now devotes his energies to selling the works of the Brothers Hildebrandt and other artists through his Spiderwebart Gallery and website. Even though the bulk of their work was for Fantasy, the Brothers Hildebrandt remain historically important to sf Illustration in that they were among the first artists to demonstrate the potential rewards in selling fantastic art outside the confines of books and magazines. Their Tolkien calendars, in a sense, were the ancestors of the prints, trading cards, convention auctions, and websites that today's artists successfully employ to independently market their goods. [GW]

Gregory J Hildebrandt

born Detroit, Michigan: 23 January 1939

Timothy Mark Allen Hildebrandt

born Detroit, Michigan: 23 January 1939

died New Brunswick, New Jersey, June 11, 2006

works (collaborations)


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