Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs and Other Archosaurs – Part 2

Vintage Dinosaur Art

Having already covered Peter Zallinger’s theropods – or at least, the non-avian ones – we should probably turn our attention to the various Other Dinosaurs that populate Dinosaurs and Other Archosaurs. We’ll start with some basal sauropodomorphs which are, yet again, green and tan. Or is it tan and green?

Prosauropods by Peter Zallinger

Once again, these are reconstructions that are exceptionally well-observed for the time in terms of anatomical details, but also rather skinny – particularly for herbivorous animals, which would have had huge guts. (Doomguy would be enthused.) For me, Zallinger’s Plateosaurus appears particularly shrink-wrapped, but then it’s a hulking beast that I’ve seen many reconstructions of. One can still appreciate the many fine details in the skull, the faithfully produced limb proportions (even if it’d definitely be a biped these days), and subtleties such as the toes spreading and compressing under the animal’s weight.

Riojasaurus is one of those dinosaurs that popped up in a lot of books back when, but doesn’t seem to appear very much these days. I do remember it always being reconstructed as really skinny, so Zallinger’s version is probably not all that unusual. There was also that one that appeared in Dinosaurs! that looked a bit like a toy.

Apatosaurus by Peter Zallinger

Proper sauropods are surprisingly under-represented in this book, being basically limited to a rather boring Brachiosaurus (with mostly hypothetical Supersaurus-as-a-brachiosaur and U L T R A S A U R O S skeletons behind it), and the above scene depicting a herd of Apatosaurus (or is it Brontosaurus?). Zallinger’s typical anatomical rigour seems to desert him somewhat here, as these Brontosaurus (or are they Apatosaurus?) have rather slimline necks, more reminiscent of Diplodocus. Of course, this has been a typical mistake across all palaeoart since time immemorial, with exceptions actually being more notable (such as Kish’s unfortunately otherwise shrinkwrapped brontos).

In fact, given how slimline these beasts are generally, it seems a bit odd that they weren’t just given the label Diplodocus. Oh well, never mind – check out those cool colours! On the heads, that is, which are blue with an orange band behind, a pleasing hypothetical display feature and deviation from the tired ‘sauropods were brown/grey’ trope. I’m also very fond of the differing colours of the juveniles, and the fact that all the animals have honest-to-goodness scaly skin. No pachyderm wrinkles in sight! Very well done, there.

Heterodontosaurus and Lesothosaurus by Peter Zallinger

And speaking of jobs well done, I’m very fond of Zallinger’s Heterodontosaurus. In spite of perhaps being a little under-muscled, it just all seems to come together nicely as a convincing creature; it’s well-proportioned, with a rounded herbivorous belly, and there isn’t any undue emphasis on the animal’s unusual dentition (even if its mouth is wide open). The suitably staring, glassy eye conveys a great deal of character – in fact, Zallinger does seem to be especially good at eyes, an oft-overlooked aspect in making an extinct creature really appear alive. Should it have cheeks? Maybe. Maybe not.

Lesothosaurus, meanwhile, is green – as it so often is. (Really – go and run a Google image search.) But hey, it’s very pleasing for the time, too. Note the ‘angry eyebrows’ and subtle details of the feet, in particular. I’m always about the feet. It’s also interesting that Zallinger’s Lesothosaurus only has a beak-like tip to its lower jaw, unlike some reconstructions that give it keratinous tips on both jaws, and others that don’t give it any. As far as I’m aware, all reconstructions are possible as the animal’s jaw tips aren’t known, but do drop a comment if you know any better. [UPDATE – Albert knew better – see comments.]

Dryosaurus by Peter Zallinger

This Dryosaurus, featured on the opposite page, is also commendably well-proportioned – some decent reference material must have been available here. The neck appears a little short and chunky at first glance, but this can probably be attributed to foreshortening. The limbs may be stick-thin (yet again), but at least there’s plenty of room for its innards. It’s a great piece, but why did the animal have to be tan-with-green-stripes? Why, Peter, why?

Saurolophus, Corythosaurus, Anatosaurus by Peter Zallinger

Naturaly, as the Late Cretaceous rolls in, tan-with-green-stripes iguanodonts make way for tan-with-green-stripes hadrosaurs, and, yes, they look a bit starving. On the other hand, these are beautifully well-observed reconstructions for 1986, particularly in details of the hands, which are uncommonly accurate for the time (remember, we were still getting very upright, gangly dork hadrosaurs waving their upsettingly humanoid hands around in other books). Only Saurolophus looks a bit suspect. Actually, there’s something about its skulking, hunched-over pose and sideways movement that reminds me of a gull making off with a plastic bag that might contain some fatty morsel. (Or maybe I was in lockdown at the seaside for too long.) Corythosaurus does also look like it might have a bit of an extend-o-neck going on, but otherwise, these are all very admirable.

That background, too, is lovely. It’s almost a shame that it’s deliberately faded to draw attention to the animals – Pine Tree Creek looks like it’d make a stunning backdrop for some sexy dinosaur action.

Scelidosaurus by Peter Zallinger

Moving now to animals of a spikier persuasion, here’s an exceptionally good Scelidosaurus for the time (subsequent discoveries/publications have revealed that the animal’s legs were rather shorter and it had different armour patterns). Unusually among the reconstructions in this book, this is a hefty-looking creature with a suitably wide stance and fat tail, and this is shown off nicely by the choice of perspective (which also neatly parallels its distant later relative Stegosaurus, below). The attention to detail in the skin folds and wrinkles is particularly good here.

Stegosaurus by Peter Zallinger

As mentioned, Stegosaurus is shown in a similar pose, although as it’s given a whole spread to luxuriate over we’re also treated to a not-quite-lateral view as well. Note the typically orange-ish plates and green body (although there are some tan parts, too – gotta have those). Peculiarly, the individual over on the left is given four pairs of tail spikes, reminiscent of earlier reconstructions of S. ungulatus – an idea I thought had pretty much been binned by this time (although not necessarily by everyone, I suppose). Given that the animal on the right only has two pairs, it may be that this image is intended to be a comparison of sorts between S. ungulatus and S. stenops, although this isn’t made explicit in the text. (I’m left wondering how many of the book’s younger readers noticed this discrepancy…)

Here, the tendency of Zallinger to make his dinosaurs rather skinny actually works in his favour, and these stegosaurs are strikingly ‘modern’-looking when compared with some contemporary art. While they do have deep bodies (ain’t no cheatin’ those proportions), they hold their heads and tails well clear of the ground.

Acanthopolis, Scolosaurus, Ankylosaurus by Peter Zallinger

And finally…ankylosaurs! Oh, yes – there’s that short-tailed Scolosaurus again. It’s still weird not to see it flattened to the ground like a big armoured slug, as in the model last seen lurking in Paradise Park in Niels’ post back in January. I like how it’s positioned to brandish its truncated tail at us for maximum effect. Seriously, though, the fine scaly details on both it and Ankylosaurus are bloody lovely. Scolosaurus has hips that are perhaps a little narrow, but at least Ankylosaurus looks like the kind of thing you wouldn’t want to meet while driving down a narrow country lane (just imagine – it’d scratch all your paint up and take your door mirror off).

Acanthopolis is the odd one out here, because in so many ways, it looks quite exactly like Neave Parker’s reconstruction from decades prior – non-Peter-Zallingerian dragging tail and all. To be fair, the animal was and is very poorly known, but he might at least have given it a tail lift. There’s also a real preponderance of brown here, but hey, ankylosaurs gotta brown.

Next time: BIRDS! And maybe some non-dinosaurs. If there’s any demand for it.

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  • Reply
    Paul Heaston
    August 4, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    Great review! I used to check this book out from the library often when I was in middle school, I was that fond of the illustrations. The Apatosaurus spread is my favorite. I did notice that as nice-looking as the hadrosaur hands are, Zallinger seems to have confused digit I with digit V, so their little “fingers” are on the inside of the hand like thumbs when they should be where the “pinkies” are.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    Jaw tips are known for Lesothosaurus, with evidence for a small beak on both the upper and lower jaws.

  • Reply
    Ananth Kalanje
    August 6, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Please cover the non-dinosaurs as well! It will be nice to see how Peter Zallinger reconstructs them.

  • Reply
    Z. Mustafa Ahmed
    August 12, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    Love this review.

    That aside, just wanted to post this:

    My family took a day trip to Elora today. At the end we briefly stepped into a cute little bookstore in there. Me being me, I immediately started looking for books on dinosaurs. As luck would have it, I found a bit bunch that would be perfect for this site’s VDA. I didn’t buy any of them, but if I did I’d send them to any of you. Among them are:

    One called Dinosaur Mysteries, which features Bakker’s live birth Apatosaur theory, your usual pack of allosaur-headed Deinonychus making Tenontosaur sandwich, a weirdass parasaurolophus, and a ceratopsian with a cool electric blue and yellow colour.

    Two Disney books, one a Disney Dinosaur tie in and the other an educational book.

    1998’s Graveyard of the Dinosaurs, featuring Mark Halett’s great art.

    Discoveries: Dinosaurs

    Dinosaur Encyclopedia, full of bad CG animals (though of the nostalgic kind IMO)

    A book also like the above, of awful CGI thyreophorans, simply titled Armoured Dinosaurs.

    • Reply
      Z. Mustafa Ahmed
      August 12, 2020 at 7:02 pm

      Oh, and the Dinosaur Alphabet book.

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