Tim Hildebrandt, half of the famed Hildebrandt Brothers illustration studio, whose images fired popular imagination in the late 20th century, is dead from complications of diabetes. He was 67.
He and his twin, Greg Hildebrandt, are probably best known for their illustrations and posters for "The Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars." They also were famed among illustrators for their work on children's books, comics and fantasy illustrations, all of it characterized by unusual realism, depth and richness of color.
According to Terrance Brown, the director of the Society of Illustrators in New York, "Tim Hildebrandt earned more than a footnote in the history of American illustration. He and Greg are the long chapter." Brown described them as among "the roots of (U.S.) popular culture."
Greg Hildebrandt said in a Knight Ridder interview this week that he and his brother, who were born in Detroit, shared "an obsession with color" so intense that it led them at age 2 to eat a box of crayons. He said he liked their taste.
Newspaper comic strips introduced the brothers to art, he said. At 19 they worked on animations for Navy training films. In the 1950s, they did documentary film work on world hunger for Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.
In the late 1960s, they began illustrating children's books. Then, in 1976, came the first "Lord of the Rings" calendar.
The calendar was Tim Hildebrandt's idea, his brother remembered. "I wanted to pursue gallery art at that point, but Tim was pushing and pushing" on the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, "and then I read it and said OK."
The Hildebrandts' agent, Jean Scrocco, recalled their extraordinary method for the 6-foot-wide paintings: One brother started at one end, the other at the other end and they met in the middle.
The calendar project was their studio's second best known, after their poster for the 1977 movie "Star Wars."
"It's almost become iconic: Luke Skywalker with his lightsaber thrust in the sky, Darth Vader's helmet in the background, Princess Leia at his feet," said Mike Chen, the director of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, N.J., where Tim Hildebrandt taught for three years.
The legend-creating "Star Wars" artwork "went around the world," Greg Hildebrandt said.
"I still have that poster, framed, in my home today," said Rebekah Adams, a "Star Wars" fan who lives in Minneapolis, Minn.
The brothers broke up in 1981 to go their own ways and didn't speak for several years, Greg Hildebrandt said.
In 1993, they reunited and began doing art for comic-book publishers Marvel ("Spider-Man," "X-Men") and DC ("Superman") and, in 1995, a daily comic strip, an updated version of Milt Caniff's "Terry and the Pirates," which ran for only a year.
Tim Hildebrandt was obsessed with color and light. Among his favorite artists were Thomas Hart Benton, the prominent American artist and muralist, and the legendary illustrator N.C. Wyeth.
Janny Wurts, former president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, said her favorite Hildebrandt work was Tim Hildebrandt's painting of Flagface, a brawny man whose face is wrapped in an American flag. She praised its "sheer power and force."
Greg Hildebrandt said of his brother: "He's in my hand, eyes, mind, art, soul. He always has been from birth, and he still is."
Tim Hildebrandt died June 11 in New Brunswick, N.J. Survivors include his mother, Germaine, sister, Janie, wife, Rita, son, Charles, nieces, Mary, Laura and Elizabeth, and nephew, Gregory.
To view some of the Hildebrandt's work and learn more about them, go to:
Tim and Greg Hildebrandt Web site: www.spiderwebart.com
Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists: www.asfa-art.org
To see the Flagface poster: www.prog4you.com/cd-reviews/dreadnaught.htm. It's the drawing at the top.
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): HILDEBRANDT OBIT
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