Lord of the Rings Retro Feature: Jimmy Cauty’s iconic poster for Athena

Artist Jimmy Cauty’s Lord of the Rings poster was one of Athena’s best-selling posters of that time, released in 1976, and with interest in JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels still riding high, what better time to remind fans of them.

Due to its popularity, it should come as no surprise to downthetubes readers to learn that Cauty’s LOTR poster has been reprinted various times since its initial release, and you’ll often find copies on sites such as on eBay. (Any official reprints all feature a white border). It’s also been an influence on the work of many other artists.

Jimmy’s second poster based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien was “The Hobbit”, drawn in a similar style yet much darker than Lord Of The Rings. “The Hobbit” remains a highly sought-after poster, and is rarely sold anywhere.

Working for Athena between 1976 and 1980, Cauty went on to create other eye-catching posters, including three focusing on major British stone circles.

Jimmy Cauty aka James Cauty, is a K Foundation artist, described on his official web site as a “deconstructed rock star, part time model village builder, honorary undertaker, town planner, wooly-back-misfit, armchair rioter, head composer/conductor/AV mixer for SHUNT RESISTOR and The L-13 Light Industrial Orchestra.

“Over a diverse and productive anti-career Cauty has distinguished himself by somehow coming up with at least one must-have-counter-culture-design-classic per decade, we are not sure what he does the rest of the time,” his official web site notes.

Today, Cauty works closly with the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop London to develop projects both ambitious and diminutive, make prints and other artwork editions and convert impractical artistic visions to reality.

Famous for Athena posters, Athena, still in business today, has been an iconic art publisher and retailer for over 50 years. In 1964, Ole Christensen opened the company’s first shop and Athena soon became known for its high-quality reproductions of works of art. By 1979, Athena had over 20 stores covering the UK, with a publishing division selling to 50 countries. Athena became the largest company of its kind in the world, with over 150 stores at its peak.

Just some of Athena’s current range of posters, offered as framed prints

Its distinctive range of posters from the 1970s and 80s included not only Jimmy Cauty’s Tolkien-inspired work, but, ‘Tennis Girl’ and ‘L’Enfant’, by Spencer Rowell.

Changing technologies and the rise of the internet era dramatically transformed the commercial art market. In 2014, Athena moved fully online, supplying their full range of framed images by a huge variety of artists and designers directly to customers, from their workshop in Yorkshire. Their designs are diverse, utilising original art, typography and photography, featuring animals, gadgets, cityscapes and the abstract.

Jimmy Cauty is online at jamescauty.com

There’s more background on Jimmy’s LOTR poster and works it inspired, and other posters here, on KLF Online

• Discover great art in the Athena art print collection

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