Tolkien's Landscapes 3: 'Moonlight on a Wood' ~ picture by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.
Tolkien created 'Moonlight on a Wood' in a spurt of artistic and literary creativity that burst forth in the late 1920's. As was seen in the previous post, Tolkien long had been drawing from life. He also had been making imaginative, non-realistic pictures, particularly in 1913-15, which illustrated his expanding secondary world. But he made few pictures in the years that followed, and, after 1922, none at all.
In 1927-28, however, his imagination exploded. His art work exploded along with his ideas for developing his secondary world. His style in illustration became more painterly, more confident, and, though he still favoured bright colours, more subtle. Perhaps the family holidays at Lyme-Regis in 1927-28 afforded him the opportunities he needed to express himself in art.
'Moonlight on a Wood' is a nearly unique piece in that Tolkien rendered the picture's trees in a Cubist manner. I don't know what Tolkien intended to convey though this experimentation in style, but I find the picture's angular starkness strongly evocative, beautiful but mysterious, chilly, eerie, even hallucinatory, as if I were a mortal entering the Perilous Realm.
Jan-u-wine's poem responds to the picture's stark mystery in its own way, using words rather than brush strokes. She said of the uniqueness of the picture, "It really is a mesmerizing piece, isn't it? So weird and yet so.....wonderful. I really would like to have known what was in his mind. This is surely...jazz from a man who was always a classicist....."
Moonlight on a Wood
The smell of them is thick
with winter and blood-resin,
needles of cold, sharp scent
and lemon light, mingled,
the jagged prism
of their joining lying
slipped silver and
moss'd green upon the forest's
Unreachable, this resolute
a template of dream.....
the light-ice of his fingers
a distanc'd benediction,
upon the crown-points of snow-sleeping pine.
~ "Foxglove Year" by jan-u-wine for watercolour of the same name by Tolkien.