Josef Madlener, born as a farmer's son in the Bavarian village Amending (today a district of Memmingen), attended a School of Art and Applied arts. Later he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
His pictures often show folksy or religious scenes. His style was impressionistic and in the same way symbolic, too. His works were published in several newspapers and magazines. He wrote some Christmas stories for children. Madlener's Christmas pictures were published in post card series, too.
 Origin of Gandalf
In 1935 the Bavarian fine art publisher F.A. Ackermann published a series of post cards under the title Sagen und Märchen (Legends and Fairy tales). The series contained six reproductions of folkloristic paintings:
- Der Frühling Kommt (Spring is coming),
- Die Bergfee (The Mountain-fairy),
- Waldmärchen (Forest fairy tales),
- Hubertushirsch (Saint Hubert's Hart)
Though Carpenter speculates, that Tolkien bought the post card already in his summer holidays 1911, when he was in Switzerland. This speculation is incorrect, because the post card version of Der Berggeist was published first in 1935. In an interview the daughter of the artist gives the painting's date of origin as the middle or end of the nineteen twenties.
The original painting came to America after World War II, where it was later rediscovered. In 2005 it was sold at Sotheby's for 84000 pounds.
- Collection of the MEWO Kunsthalle Memmingen (German)
- Article Josef Madlener: Maler der schwäbischen Weihnacht (German)
- Humphrey Carpenter: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography.
- Douglas A. Anderson: The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expended Edition.
- Chapter I: An unexpected Party (p. 38f.).