So, Wednesday I finally picked up next year's Tolkien calendar, which I've been eyeing for a few weeks now. I actually like the art quite a lot. It definitely presents THE HOBBIT as a children's book, the opposite pole of Alan Lee's edition, which I also like. Comparing Catlin's and Lee's illustrated editions is interesting because both pull out elements of the story that are definitely there, but their focus is entirely different: light and fairytale-ish for Catlin, gloomy and mythic for Lee. All in all, a good way of seeing the range of Tolkien's book. I still think Tolkien by far his own best illustrator, but Catlin's is a charming view of Tolkien's world and I'm glad to have it.
Comparing the calendar with the book I now see that the main art piece for each month comes from a full-page color illo in the book, and I've found almost all the smaller pieces in the book as well. Catlin turns out to be good both in miniature and in larger scale -- I particularly like a little picture of a bear watching intently from a distance -- Beorn keeping a wary eye on the dwarves riding his ponies* (H.169).
So, recommended. A good set of art, and a nice new interpretation of Tolkien's world.
*which is just as well, considering how badly Thorin and company's ponies fare on the whole.
addendum to San Francisco Symphony
3 hours ago