Seventy-eight year-old Australian painter Mary Fairburn is now two years older than J.R.R. Tolkien was when the two first began corresponding about the painted illustrations she'd created of scenes from his then not-even-fifteen-years-old series of fantasy novels The Lord of the Rings. The author himself would die a mere five years later, and though he told her that his art had changed his mind entirely on whether an illustrated version of The Lord of the Rings would ever be published, the collaboration never happened. We wouldn't know any of this without the work of researcher Paul Tankard, who just happened to have relatives who live in the same town as Fairburn, otherwise he might not know any of it either.
J.R.R. Tolkien notoriously didn't like the idea of illustrations being used in his books. Many submitted their artistic visions to the writer, but, even if he liked them, they didn't suit as illustrations. This apparently wasn't true in all cases. After conducting a bit of research, Dr. Paul Tankard has traced down a series of illustrations of which Tolkien actually approved. As in, would have maybe appeared in an illustrated version of the novel.