John Howe’s famous painting of Gandalf the Grey was stolen from a gallery in 1997 and has never been recovered!
John Howe is a Canadian book illustrator living in Switzerland. He studied for a year in France and is best known for his artwork based on the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien. Throughout his first years in Europe, Howe was taking in as much as he could in the way of art, architecture and everything that was "simultaneously ancient and novel." He says the only piece of his art work that survived from this period is his "The Lieutenant of the Black Tower of Barad-dûr", a piece inspired by Tolkien's, The Lord of the Rings. He says if this is not his first published piece, it must certainly be the earliest.
Howe's earliest commissions included political cartoons, magazine illustrations, comics, animated films, advertising, of which he says were nightmares. He said that he would end up redoing sketches so many time that there was nothing left of "his" in them. This frustrated him, and he wondered how he would ever make it in the profession. Since the earlier days of his career, John has managed to find his place in the profession of art. His most famous piece, Gandalf the Grey, was stolen in 1997 from an art gallery and has never been recovered.