Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Great Dinosaur Atlas – Part 2

Vintage Dinosaur Art

As discussed in the previous post, the artist most frequently referenced by Giuliano Fornari in illustrating The Great Dinosaur Atlas was John Sibbick. Specifically, art from the Normanpedia was often quite slavishly copied, right down to particular colour choices. As such, when Fornari shifts gears and opts to, er, pay tribute to the work of other palaeoartists with wildly contrasting styles, the effect is very jarring.

Dinosaur Feasts - Great Dinosaur Atlas

Sibbick’s Normanpedia work, while beautifully executed and hugely influential, was also a little retrograde for its time; it’s easy to forget that the likes of Hallett, McLoughlin and Kish were producing work that looked radically more ‘modern’. And, of course, Greg Paul was too. The treetrunk-limbs and slightly vaguely outlined frames of Fornari’s Sibbick-like dinosaurs almost look like they belong in a different (older) book when compared with the sharp-looking Paul copies (above). The scalation, including the larger scales decorating the faces of the big guys, is a marked departure from what’s seen elsewhere. Feathers even appear on Coelophysis (shades of mohawk-Synarsus), although sadly not on Deinonychus – after all, a feathered Deinonychus appeared in Paul’s Predatory Dinosaurs of the World in 1988. Speaking of Deinonychus, it’s intriguing that the small Tenontosaurus v Deinonychus illustration appears to borrow the animals’ colours from Japanese-made robots from the early ’90s, some of which used to be on display in the NHM (London).

Apatosaurus on the move - Great Dinosaur Atlas

Immediately after that, we’re returned to the world of 1980s Sibbickian dinosaurs with a herd of perma-grinning apatosaurs, depicted in a classic ‘fat Diplodocus‘ guise that ignores their weird necks (see also: virtually every kids’ dinosaur book from the 1980s and ’90s, and Jurassic World). Nice scales though, and hey, they aren’t tail dragging – although the tails almost look like they should be dragging. The babies are cute, too, in a slightly sinister sort of way. It’s those red eyes.

Europe map - Great Dinosaur Atlas

To Europe! It’s where I live, after all (I’m underneath Iguanodon‘s back). Here we have our first encounter with quadrupedal Baryonyx, which I’m sure is copied from somewhere, but I can’t quite remember the source. Fortunately, the obviously Sibbickian Hypsilophodon and (especially) Plateosaurus with tripodal arm-flailin’ action are much more obvious. There’s also an Archaopteryx with ‘wing hands’ and a short tail because, I dunno, tradition. It amusingly contrasts with an actually rather good depiction of the Berlin specimen, showing off its avian wing configuration. Also noteworthy: Saltopus! It may be poorly known and largely left on the shelf these days, but I miss Saltopus. In fact, I seem to miss a lot of dinosaurs with names that start with ‘Salt’. Where’s my Big Book of Dinosaurs That Were Popularly Depicted in the 1990s But Not Anymore (Including the Salty Ones)?

Megalosaurus is there too, looking more generic than a Primark shop window dummy. Still, good to see you, old fellow.

Baryonyx - Great Dinosaur Atlas

Baryonyx was another dinosaur that was a much bigger deal in the 1990s, even if it does still retain a modicum of popularity today. These days it mostly puts in appearances because it’s a relative of that gigantic sailfin-gharial-dachshund freak, but back in the day it was a celebrated for being a weirdo on its own terms – as seen here. Why, it might even have been quadrupedal, when it felt like it! As far as illustrations from the era go, this one’s not too bad at all (although I suspect it’s another copy) – the animal correctly has a single midline crest on its skull and an enlarged claw on one finger of each hand, rather than, say, huge hooks emerging from the ends of its arms, surrounded by the vestiges of smaller digits. (That did happen.) The typical depiction of a covering of large, rectangular scales is definitely a way of linking the animal explicitly to crocodilians, but hey, at least it hadn’t been done to death back in 1991. The Invicta Baryonyx toy wore it better, though.

Compsognathus - Great Dinosaur Atlas

Tiny Compsognathus is given the double-page treatment too, although in its case, it’s because it can be shown at LIFE SIZE! Look, not all dinosaurs were big! Some, like Compsognathus and, er, others, were small! I dunno – kids these days don’t know how lucky they are, growing up in a world where oodles of minuscule Chinese theropods are known about. All we had when I were a lad were Compsognathus, and we liked it, too. But I digress.You’ll note that this illustration is from a time when Compsognathus was thought to have had only two fingers, and unusually includes a skeletal of the hand (based on the work of Ostrom, or so said D-Naish during my livestream last month). As with a number of Fornari’s other illustrations in this book, the creature is depicted with a slightly peculiar covering of rectangular and diamond-shaped scales, as opposed to the pebbly scales one might expect. Nice eyes, though.

Map of Asia - Great Dinosaur Atlas

Moving over to Asia, and once again, it’s amusing to think how utterly different such a spread would look if this book were produced today. Why, you’d have feathers and giant-clawed herbivorous theropod freaks of nature all over the place (and not just as a pair of disembodied arms). As it is, we’re treated to two fantastically coloured (and feathered!) Paul-alike heads – based on monochrome originals, and so the colouration is actually original (hooray!) – alongside a Psitaccosaurus, ‘meat and two veg’ Tsintaosaurus and Toujiangosaurus that are all Sibbick copies. That is a good illustration of a Mamenchisaurus skeleton, mind you.

Hadrosaurs - Great Dinosaur Atlas

A commuter bicycle with tiny wheels! Also, Sibbickian hadrosaurszzzz. I’ll say one thing for, er, unicorn Tsintaosaurus – at least its appearance remains consistent throughout this book, providing a nice sense of continuity. Not much to say here, other than that I find Saurolophus‘ spots rather dapper, and the skin on the Shantungosaurus is so of-its-time that I can see myself in my mind’s eye, poring over issues of Dinosaurs! in the front room of my grandparents’ bungalow while my gran rustles up a fried breakfast…excuse me, there’s something in my eye…

Protoceratops - Great Dinosaur Atlas

And finally, for now – it’s Protoceratops, complete with then-obligatory nest and hatchlings (there was even a rather lovely toy). While most illustrations of this era reconstruct ceratopsians with pseudo-cheeks that fully conceal all their teeth, Protoceratops was often depicted with a number of its teeth exposed (besides the weird pointy ones further to the front, of course). Such is the case here. The Oviraptor in the background (now featherless and nose-horned) is very Normanpedia, if not quite an outright copy. It’s a little odd that, while the egg in its hand is splurting out lots of gooey stuff, the hatching Protoceratops in the foreground are as squeaky-clean and dry looking as my poor, poor hands. Perhaps it’s to avoid squick, although plenty of very young children know what a hatching chicken looks like.

But we aren’t finished with this book…not quite. There’s more to come, including marine reptiles, the next time I can put Animal Crossing down. Yes, yes!

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  • Reply
    May 11, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    What are some other former staples that have fallen by the wayside? Megalosaurus and Saltasaurus are ones that come to mind.

    • Reply
      Timur Sivgin
      May 12, 2020 at 6:29 am

      Among non-dinosaurs, Cynognathus and Moschops come to my mind. Dinosaurwise I think there‘s Ornitholestes and Centrosaurus (formerly known as Monoclonius) and of course all the other ones that had to be reclassified, like Trachodon and Ultrasauros.

      • Reply
        Niels Hazeborg
        May 13, 2020 at 2:30 am

        It might be just me, but I think I’ve been seeing less of Albertosaurus since it’s been split. Used to be everywhere. Now, Gorgosaurus seems to be more popular.
        Scolosaurus is another example, even though it’s a valid genus. Its last pop culture appearance was probably The Land Before Time.

  • Reply
    May 12, 2020 at 8:07 am

    You used to see carnotaurus a lot more as well

  • Reply
    May 15, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    Nice post! A few comments:

    The Archaeopteryx is copied from Sibbick’s ‘carnosaurs’ illustration (Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Diliphosaurus). The Megalosaurus is Sibbick’s Ceratosaurus with a different head and finger count.

    The Saurolophus with inflatable sac is copied from Hallett.

    And the Mamenchisaurus skeleton is a direct copy of a reconstruction done by Peter Trusler for the exhibition Dinosaurs of China.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2021 at 9:15 am

    So their reason for the decline of sauropods after the Jurassic is pink-eye?

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