Monday, September 19, 2022

Terrifyingly Beautiful

If you were into fantasy during the 1970s, you were almost certainly familiar with the artwork of Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, generally known as the Brothers Hildebrandt. Today, they're probably most remembered for their various Lord of the Rings calendars (the first of which appeared in 1976) and the covers to the Shannara novels of Terry Brooks, but I suspect the first of their paintings I ever saw was this one:

To say the Brothers Hildebrandt were a big deal is thus something of an understatement. That's why I'm not at all surprised that, in 1982 and 1983, TSR released two Dungeons & Dragons calendars featuring paintings by Tim Hildebrandt (I wonder why Greg was not also involved in this project). Here's an ad for the 1984 calendar from Dragon:
Did anyone reading this own one of these calendars? Searches online reveal that the calendar's paintings, while indeed beautiful, are fairly generic in their subject matter. I don't see anything distinctly D&D-ish about this, for example:
Mind you, it's an open question as to what marks any artwork as "Dungeons & Dragons artwork" beyond the fact that it appeared in a D&D product, so perhaps I'm being unfair. More to the point, I imagine TSR didn't worry much about such questions. For them, the union of the D&D name and the artwork of one of the world's premier fantasy artists was likely sufficient justification for the existence of Realms of Wonder.


  1. Can't speak for this one, but the 1983 version of the same wasn't D&D at all, just generic fantasy art with a D&D logo stuck on. Not a bad set of paintings, but just a cash grab.

    The various Dragonlance calendars that came out are pretty good examples of definitively "D&D artwork" to me. None of that art would have existed if it hadn't been commissioned by TSR, which seems like the best definition of the term.

  2. At one point or another in my youth I had a Middle Earth themed calendar featuring their art. I dimly remember reading their novel Urshurak as a kid as well. I have no recollection what the novel was about, but have a vague notion that it was enjoyable enough if pretty derivative of Tolkien. But given I likely read this in the late 1980s, I don't know how trustworthy my memories of it are.

    As for why only Tim worked on the D&D calendars, I suspect Greg alone could give a real answer as to why, but according to Wikipedia they started pursuing solo art careers in 1981 and didn't reunite to collaborate on art again until 12 years later.

    1. I didn't realize they'd pursued solo careers. That likely explains it. In my mind, they've always been The Brothers Hildebrandt.

    2. In fact, it appears that the 1983 Calendar (released in 1982, of course) was Tim Hildebrandt's first solo project.

  3. Their work was the only good thing about the Shannara novels.

  4. I had some of the Forgotten Realms and, I think, Dragonlance calendars... but never this one. If I HAD had it, it would have been chopped up and stapled all around the garage walls for the others...that's where my Folks let me use the big sewing/crafting table for gaming... and thus it wouldn't exist now.

  5. I had at least one of the Realms of Fantasy calendars, and probably still do - I kept most of the fantasy art calendars I collected over the years. I even went back and purchased some over the years that I didn't get originally, such as some of the Days of the Dragon calendars.