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1 9 5 0s - 6 0s: G O L D E N  A G E  O F  R E P T I L E S

The great Charles Knight left us in 1953, just before the biggest wave of dinosaur fever in three decades was to commence. Just how big did dinosaurs get? Rudolph Zallinger's Age of Reptiles mural from Yale University, the only paleoart piece to win a Pulitzer Prize, made the cover of 'Life' magazine igniting a new dinosaur pop culture craze. The Japanese introduced an obviously dinosaur-inspired amphibian called Godzilla which would alter the course of a young Ken Carpenter in Tokyo. Willis O'Brien protege Ray Harryhausen's fictitious 'rhedosaur' (better known as the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms) terrorized moviegoers and undoubtedly fostered another generation's fascination with all creatures extinct. 

Children were treated to the very first mass-produced plastic toy dinosaurs (mostly copying Zallinger) by Marx, Timmee, Ajax and MPC, and styrene model kits by ITC and Pyro, and in ceramic prehistoric figures being manufactured in Japan. Some kids found little dinosaur toys inside their Nabisco wheat or rice honey boxes, and at least two of them (Phil Currie and Greg Paul) ended up hooked on these animals for life.

The late 1950s saw the opening of Dinosaur National Monument in a little town named Dinosaur, as well as a number of roadside attractions all over the U.S. featuring statues of various prehistoric animals copied from popular book illustrations. Sinclair Oil Corporation adopted the green brontosaurus as their logo in 1959 and commissioned Jonas Studios to create full scale dinosaur statues for the New York World's Fair 1964-65. Animatronic dinosaurs in the Fair were acquired by Disneyland and used in their own Primeval World.

Some cheap studios insulted movie audience intelligentsia by disguising iguanas and crocodiles with phony fins and horns. But Ray Harryhausen continued to stun with his lifelike allosaurs, pterosaurs and brontosaurs in movies like One Million Years B.C. and Valley of Gwangi. Dinosaurs were even regularly seen in the first animated primetime program, Hanna-Barbara's 'The Flintstones' and in 1958, debuted on a stamp from China and on trading cards from NuCard Sales in 1961.

In the world of paleontology female paleontologists from Poland returned to Mongolia for the first time since the 1920s. Dinosaur skeletons were found in South America. Zdenek Burian's paintings, now seeing wide publication stateside, replaced the Knights in textbooks. It seemed that things were rather slow paced analogous to the popular consensus of dino behavior at the time until about 1964. The old guard were still pronouncing those swamp-loving dinosaurs as evolutionary failures. Yale's John Ostrom discovered a carnivorous dinosaur he named Deinonychus, whose namesake "terrible claw" reinforced the idea of an avian connection to these terrible lizards. A controversial concept even to mainstream paleontologists in the 1960s whose orthodox view was about to go extinct. At the center was someone at Yale in a cowboy hat whose obsession with dinosaurs began with that crucial Life magazine...

  Rudolph F. Zallinger

The wondrous 1947 "Age of Reptiles" Yale mural took five years for Rudolph Zallinger (1919-1995) to paint but its significance would last forever. Its iconic composition marked the first mural to depict evolutionary changes through time. The pot bellied tyrannosaur is purely his own creation. Rudy never became a go-to guy like Knight did in his time. Knight's influence is evident in the Protoceratops and Trachodon in kiddie-aimed The Giant Golden Book of Dinosaurs. All his paintings seem lit by the same sky, his dinosaurs have the same one-skin-fits-all pattern, and the landscapes almost always had a volcano (where it wasn't supposed to be). Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, his work was probably the biggest influence on popular book dinosaur depictions. He is responsible for the often copied red-colored Allosaurus with blue stripes, red-plated stegosaurs and orange ankylosaurs. Zallinger's painting influenced toymakers of the day such as Marx, Linde Caffee and Miller Plastics. Son Peter Zallinger also illustrated prehistoric animals in popular books during the 1970s and 1980s.
 
   Jean Zallinger

  Neave Parker

The paintings of British artist Neave Parker (1910-61) were always black and white when they appeared in the     Illustrated London News. One Parker hallmark was his tendency to group together various genera that did not co-exist in the same time or locale. Like so many artists before him, his dinosaurs dragged their tails too, all feet firmly on the ground, lived in deserts and swamps with volcanoes in the background. All of his ornithopods and ceratopsids have reptile lips, rather than mammalian style cheeks. Burian's influence could be seen in many pieces, such as his bloated theropods and bipedal Iguanodon. For many years Hypsilophodon ended up as a tree dweller, due to Parker's depiction of it as such.

  Margaret Matthew Colbert

  Daughter of paleontologist William Diller Matthew, and wife of American Museum's Edwin H. Colbert.
 
  Bill Scheele 

  Cleveland Museum's own Bill Scheele left behind mostly black and white drawings in a series of popular
books  in the 1960s but the Scheele family also opened a gallery/mail order business in the 1990s that made prints and originals available from virtually every leading paleoartist.

 Jay Matternes

Jay Matternes was a wildlife painter whose magnificent Cenozoic paleofauna murals of the late 1960s can be seen in the Smithsonian. However, his only published dinosaur illustrations as seen in a 1971 National Geographic book were full of bow-legged, tail-dragging pos Brontosaurus with camarasaur skull, volcanoes, Pteranodon and corythosaurs, etc.) and best left forgotten.

 

  

  Bill Berry

Bill Berry was the most accurate paleoartist during the 1960s, a wildlife painter hired to do some dinosaurs for Dinosaur National Monument. And you're not seeing things - that leg is actually in motion on his Allosaurus chasing Camptosaurus - a decade ahead of his time. His future was promising but his life shortened in a fatal bar fight.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ray Harryhausen 

Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Animal World. One Million Years B.C. Valley of Gwangi. If it wasn't for Ray Harryhausen, living legend, no one at this time would be breathing life into extinct animals on the big screen. Let it be known that his best dinosaur work was the sculpting work of another artist, Arthur Hayward.

 
 

 WED  Disneyland/Disney World 
 
 
Many a child walked away from the Primeval World (later EPCOT Center's Universe of Energy ride) captivated with the duelling animatronic dinosaurs, first seen in New York's World's Fair 1964.

 

 

 

 

 Jonas Studio

  Commissioned by Sinclair Oil Company for their Worlds Fair exhibit models. Sure, there's nothing accurate about them but they were monuments fulfilling the public need to visualize these creatures life size in three dimensions.