Not according to James Bowman. They and numerous others create what Bowman dismissively refers to as “fantasy art.” And fantasy art isn’t Art.
It always surprises me when I run across them, but I have to acknowledge that some folks just don’t like J.R.R. Tolkien. Shocking, I know. The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit. The Silmarillion’s mythopoeic tales. What’s not to like? Great works of art and creativity, right? Well, they might be creative, but they do not qualify as Art.
Mr. Bowman is among that group of curmudgeonly scolds that just can’t seem to abide anything that smacks of fantasy. According Bowman,
fantasy is not art, at least not in the sense that the term has been understood within the Western mimetic tradition going back to Homer. … Indeed, Western culture is so intimately bound up with the tradition of imitation in art … that the now more than century-long vogue for fantasy art, beginning with George MacDonald, J.M. Barrie, and Kenneth Grahame and continuing through Lewis and Tolkien to the more unrestrained science-fiction and fantasy cinema of our own time, should be seen as a repudiation, conscious or unconscious, of that Western tradition [“of making things that are like reality precisely so as to make claims to know reality and thus to distinguish it from fantasy”].
Bowman distinguishes Homer’s tales of gods and heroes because Homer actually believed these beings existed. The modern world, however, knows that elves, faeries, monsters, magic spinning wizards and sword wielding heroes don’t exist. To James Bowman these are childish fantasies that should be put aside in favor of reality. At the very least, we should not include fantasy in discussions about Art.
This makes me wonder what Mr. Bowman makes of Shakespeare’s Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I guess that’s not Art either. Unless, of course, the Great Bard actually believed in magicians, faeries and donkey-headed men.