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1 8 9 0s - 1 9 1 0s: K N I G H T  V I S I O N S

Until now, fossils could be collected by individuals then sold or traded. During the Great Fossil Rush begun in the 1880s, it was impossible for individuals to excavate quarries by themselves or on their own finances. Museums, like the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh built in 1890, funded the expeditions to bring back the latest, biggest, most spectacular dinosaurs. The advancements in paleontology included the first preserved skin impressions from a mummified duckbill dinosaur, the first Chinese dinosaurs in the 1900s and first African dinosaurs in the 1910s. President Woodrow Wilson declared an 80 acre quarry in Utah 'Dinosaur National Monument' which also legally protected the land.

The first real move towards a sensible structure to classifying dinosaurs, thanks in part to H.G. Seeley's separation of orders based on pelves, which still is valid today.

The paleoart industry was ruled at this time by the great Charles R. Knight, undoubtedly the most famous and influential illustrator of extinct animals. He was the go-to guy for paleontologists Cope and Marsh and the top paleo-muralist for the biggest museums in America. Immediately his work was imitated and would still show up in popular books for decades to come.

Prehistoric animals had only been the subject of short stories just a decade earlier, usually explorers who discover an uncharted territory where dinosaurs survived extinction. In 1912, Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's spun the most famous of these into a novel called 'The Lost World'. Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs followed a few years later with a series of books, namely 'The Land That Time Forgot'.

Dinosaurs were also the subject of short films, simply clay models animated via stop motion pioneer Willis O'Brien. Early silent films (like D.W. Griffith's 'Brute Force') reinforced the legend dinosaurs coexisted in the Stone Age, a public misconception which persisted for decades. But the first animated character ever shown to the public was a brontosaurus named Gertie, brought to life by Windsor McKay.

 Alice B. Woodward







Woodward's 1895 drawing of now bipedal Iguanodon.

  Charles R. Knight

Charles R. Knight (1874-1953) was the most influential paleoartist of the early 20th century. His paintings and sketches were reproduced in countless encyclopedias, textbooks and popular books (i.e. Carroll Lane Fenton's Fossil Book) for more than fifty years, even after his death in 1953. Knight paintings could be found in all the great museums, from the American Museum of Natural History in New York to Chicago's Field Museum and the Natural History Museum (28 murals alone there) of Los Angeles County. Trusted by the leading paleontologists of his time, he was first choice to restore the latest American dinosaur genera Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Brontosaurus. Bringing extinct creatures to life was his specialty, a combination of his own clay sculptures, and studying modern animals at zoos. Initially his dinosaur restorations were mostly stationary and even solitary. His leaping Ornitholestes and dynamic leaping Dryptosaurus (1897) defied the reptilian conventions the public held for dinosaurs in the late 19th century. Ahead of his time again when he hinted protective parenting (in his Triceratops and young), and Diplodocus rearing on hind legs (1907, after Osborn). He became the second artist to depict a dinosaur with its tail properly above ground (albeit unintentionally) in the famous Field Museum mural of Tyrannosaurus confronting Triceratops. Movies like The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933) have special effects based on his artwork. 

 Harry Govier Seeley

In Dragons of the Air (1901), H.G. Seeley was astonishingly close to being right, as he envisioned pterosaurs as warm-blooded reptiles, walking on all fours. In 1887, Seeley proposed a two order system for dinosaur classification based on their pelvic structures which stands today.

Heinrich Harder

German painter Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) did this old Diplodocus in the mid 1910s. This is how Germans viewed the dinosaurs until American scientists pointed out the error of their ways. One scientist noted the deep rib cage would have prohibited movement in such a crawling reptile, unless a rut was dug for the animal to move through.




 Richard Swann Lull

Yale Professor Richard Swann Lull sculpted this Stegosaurus in 1910 and behold, it carries its tail above ground! Like Knight, Lull gave his ornithopod dinosaurs with cow-like cheeks in the 1940s, which was challenged by other experts ("well, no living reptile has cheeks!") But Lull pointed out the ornithopod teeth were mammalian, for grinding and shredding. In the late 1960s, British paleontologist Peter Galton further made a case for cheeked ornithopods. Lull's mounts in the 1930s of ceratopsians were also wrong with erect hind limbs and bowed forelimbs.

Lull also may be the first to draw a resting ornithopod. 

  Arthur Miles 

Perhaps Arthur Miles' 1913 Gorgosaurus was wasn't the first to show a dinosaur at rest but it still noteowrthy.







   Erwin S. Christman
   We must remember Erwin Christman (1885-1921), the fantastic sculptor and artist who worked for American Museum of Natural History under Henry Osborn. His richly shaded fossil illustrations were probably the world's best at the time, setting a standard for all to follow. Sadly, Christman died very young (36).


  Mary Mason Mitchell 

Another miserable sprawling Diplodocus by Mary Mason Mitchell, under Oliver Hay's direction.