According to an obituary published today in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jeffrey (Jef) Murray passed away unexpectedly Monday. Murray, an artist well-known for his illustrations of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, was 55. There is one report in the Borrow-Downs Discussion Forum which indicates the cause of death was a heart attack, but no confirmation of this has been found.
According to the tribute on the Tolkien Society website, Murray’s works include illustrations based on Middle-earth for the Society’s publications, Amon Hen and Mallorn, as well as artwork frequently published online. Besides being inspired by Tolkien, the artist also produced depictions based on C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. He also was enlisted to illustrate the short book, Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien.
Murray’s artistic skills extended beyond visual artwork. He was also a writer in his own right. He was a regular contributor to The Integrated Catholic Life website, and co-author of the book Seer: A Wizard’s Journal.
Ted Nasmith, an artist-illustrator who produced illustrations for publications for editions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion, posted a public tribute to Murray on his Facebook page Tuesday. Nasmith says he maintained an email dialog with Murray, where they “struggled to reconcile our opinions and hash out understandings against the backdrop of today’s overly poisonous social/political climate, but worked to reach gentlemanly solutions and at worst agreed to disagree if reconciliation was beyond us.”
Murray was apparently a staunchly conservative Roman Catholic, while Nasmith has a definite progressive bent. It is refreshing to know the two were able to establish such a relationship. (See C S Lewis and intellectual hospitality: learning to listen to the opposition.) Nasmith elaborates on the importance of such dialog:
“In a time when we can retreat into our respective camps and find support easily within our own political or religious ‘tribe’, the ability to reach across the liberal-conservative divide (a truly stupid, futile, and unnecessarily toxic one as it’s become!) is the more critical, forcing you to confront your prejudices and emotion-driven views and expand your insight into what motivates or troubles those in the opposing camp.”
Here’s hoping such dialog will not pass away with the passing of this artist.