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Vintage Dinosaur Art: A natural history of Dinosaurs – Part 2

Vintage Dinosaur Art

Last time around, we had a look at various illustrations of theropods from 1977’s A natural history of Dinosaurs (this edition being from 1978), authored by Richard Moody and involving an assortment of artists. While theropods are obviously the Best Dinosaurs, I’m aware that there are people out there – strange people, no doubt – who are more interested in ornithischians (or non-theropod ornithoscelidilians, if you prefer) and sauropods. So here they are! Starting with a very early sauropodomorph with an apparently quite varied diet.

Thecodontosaurus by Mary Lacey

Oh yes. You kids might think you’re being all original and clever by depicting ostensibly herbivorous dinosaurs tucking hungrily into animal carcasses, but here’s Mary Lacey’s illustration of Thecodontosaurus doing just that, all the way from 1977. As you’ll have noticed, there’s an individual eating vegetation too, as the idea here is to depict Thecodontosaurus as a true generalist. As Moody says, noting the animal’s mix of “primitive and advanced characteristics”, it “probably had a varied diet of flesh and plant materials”. I rather like this illustration – the dinosaurs look very good for the time, and it’s an effective and immediate way of portraying the animal as an opportunistic omnivore. I also really like the mountains in the background, where the semi-realistic style gives way to something altogether more painterly and impressionistic. What’s more, it is – as far as I’m aware – entirely original. (But if you’ve seen a flesh-tearing Neave Parker Thecodontosaurus somewhere that this is a blatant copy of, please let me know.)

Brachiosaurus by Tony Morris

Unfortunately, herbivorous (or omnivorous) dinosaurs were scarcely given such an interesting treatment back in the day. Unless a dastardly theropod was involved, they were mostly depicted just standing around, munching on plants, basking in the sun, and generally loafing. Such is the case with Tony Morris’ illustration of Brachiosaurus, which definitely channels Giovanni Caselli. They’re big. They’re wrinkly. They’re grey. They lack much in the way of a point of reference to emphasise their large size. They’ll do – at least they aren’t old-school swamp-dwellers. I do like the sky, and the inclusion of the juvenile which appears to have shorter forelimbs than hind limbs, for some reason.

Hypsilophodon by Michael Youens

Further depictions of herbivores standing around include these Hypsilophodon, as illustrated by Michael Youens. I mostly wanted to include these because they are, for Hypsilophodon, unusually tubby; the animal is usually depicted (and described) as a ‘bipedal Cretaceous gazelle’, so these rather dumpy, pear-shaped depictions look a little strange. Still, who’s to say that Hypsilophodon didn’t really have hips that massive? Other than the fact that its hips really aren’t all that deep. Never mind – I do appreciate that these animals are inhabiting such a lush, verdant landscape. Yay, trees!

Brachylophosaurus by Tony Morris

Sometimes, even without carnivores around to force them into doing something interesting, herbivorous dinosaurs did manage to exhibit interesting behaviours all by themselves. Here, we see Tony Morris’ depiction of two Brachylophosaurus engaging in a bit of a head-shoving contest. Brachylophosaurus is an unusual animal to see in a book of this vintage, so I do appreciate is inclusion. Furthermore, Morris’ technique in painting the animals’ scaly hides is fantastic – it’s reminiscent of real hadrosaur skin, and seems almost tangible. All that said, there’s an obvious Burian influence here, with the Brachylophosaurus on the right being highly reminiscent of the luckless “Trachodon” in his ‘Trachodon and Tyrannosaurus‘ piece – it’s mostly in those splayed legs. Those feet are also suffering from an iffy perspective, but it’d be mean to point that out.

Pachycephalosaurus by Tony Morris

More Morris, and this time the poor old ornithischians have given up trying to be interesting by themselves, and have got a theropod involved. These pachycephalosaurs are rather Caselli-like, especially in having grey heads and reddish-brown bodies, although one couldn’t accuse them of being direct copies. It’s peculiar that the smaller individuals here have a more pronounced dome, whereas the larger ones have a much flatter head, reminiscent of Dracorex (without the spikes). Rather ironic, given the proposal that Dracorex is a juvenile Pachycephalosaurus (of course, the former hadn’t even been discovered at the time). In the background, two of the more pointy-headed animals are shown engaging a tyrannosaur, which really looks rather sad to be caught in such a situation. Still, you shouldn’t trust a tyrannosaur…

Parasaurolophus by Mary Lacey

…As Parasaurolophus well knows. There’s something about this illustration (by Mary Lacey) that make it especially hilarious. I think it’s partly down to the obviously outdated nature of the reconstruction (completely inaccurate hands with webbed fingers!), but mostly to do with the image of a humanoid swamp-creature raising its arms and shrieking like a distressed damsel from a cheesy 1950s movie. It’s also got that peculiar crest-flap which used to appear all the time, but was seemingly abandoned in the mid to late 1990s, perhaps because it’d be a little restrictive on the animal’s head movements unless it had an awful lot of slack skin. Also, and perhaps more importantly, it just looks cooler with a big red horn, a pompadour, sticking out from its head with no conjoining tissue.

Here’s a thought: maybe someone could draw Parasaurolophus with a connecting skin-flap on its crest and attempt to present it as some cerebral All Yesterdays-style depiction of an animal with a rare genetic mutation (akin to a human with webbed toes), surrounded by several of its free-crested brethren. Go on. Surely not that many people have seen Fantasia.

Euoplocephalus by Ann Baum

Lacey’s Parasaurolophus might be shrieking about a tyrannosaur incursion, but Ann Baum’s Euoplocephalus have bigger problems. Having grown tired of standing around gormlessly with its mouth hanging open, Neave Parker’s tripodal Tyrannosaurus has started invading other artworks, here casually flipping over a low-slung ankylosaur just for kicks. As I’ve said before, I love it when artists copy other artists’ very distinct depictions of certain dinosaurs but modify them slightly and depict them engaging in some hitherto unseen activity. It’s like we’re seeing the continuing adventures of that particular character. While the tyrannosaur is a real Parker, the Euoplocephalus appear to be based on Caselli’s work and are therefore oddly reminiscent of old-school depictions of Ankylosaurus, rather than Euoplocephalus, which tended to look like Scolosaurus, because Scolosaurus used to be a junior synonym of Euplocephalus, and…blimey, where’s Victoria Arbour when you need her?

Acanthopolis by Ann BaumAnd finally…SEX!

That is all.

OK, this is another case of Ann Baum copying Neave Parker’s work; in this case, of Acanthopholis. Acanthopholis is a poorly known genus that no one illustrates now that they can’t get away with copying Parker. Again, it’s most amusing to see the further adventures of the Parker Acanthopholis, this time procreating to produce even more ankylosaurs that will nevertheless leave very few fossilised remains for future super-monkeys to find. This illustration of fornicating ankylosaurs rather reminds me of Ron Embleton’s work for an article that featured in Omni magazine in 1988, in which they interviewed Bev Halstead (who else?) about dinosaur sex. Mostly in that it strikes me as a parody of more serious, established palaeoart, taking its saurian denizens and posing them in all sorts of ever-so-naughty positions, like an underground magazine from the 1970s.

Or maybe they were trying to make a serious point, I dunno. Moody does talk about mating.

Next time: something less smutty!

4 thoughts on “Vintage Dinosaur Art: A natural history of Dinosaurs – Part 2”

  1. as for variations on the works of earlier artists, the triceratops page in this book contains a variation on one of those created by zdenek burian. i think it’s on the top right corner.

  2. T-rex is such a jerk. It looks like a school bully, kicking that poor Eocplocephalus right in the nads and taking his lunch money no doubt.

  3. I think the Parasaurolophus is singing it’s little heart out while bashing away at an invisible Bontempi organ.

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