Vintage Dinosaur Art: The World of Dinosaurs – Part 2

Vintage Dinosaur Art

My first post on this book was almost entirely dedicated to theropods (the best dinosaurs) – so we’d best now turn our attention to Everything Else. As discussed last time, the artwork here (credited to Wilcock Riley Graphic Art) is mostly fairly typical, and often even quite good, for the time in which was produced (i.e. 1977). But the artists do manage to make the odd strange turn here and there…

Monoclonius and Styracosaurus by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

Behold: Styracosaurus, but it’s a rhino now. As in, the entire body of the individual in the foreground is very clearly based on a modern-day rhinoceros, right down to its hooves, with much the same colouration and leathery skin, to boot. It also has a bizarrely wide snout and rhino-like lip; clearly, a dearth of 3D references wasn’t going to put the artist off. The individual in the background is far more conventional-looking (hardly surprising as it’s in lateral view), but both suffer from a seeming lack of frill, with the animal’s spines extending, finger-like, down to its face – a peculiar trope from back in the day that has thankfully long since died.

By comparison, the Monoclonius (for which we should probably read Centrosaurus) group on the left look rather ordinary, save again for having rather odd beaks. We’re even treated to a cute baby which, in a rather neat speculative touch, is considerably stripier than the adults. There’s also a rather lovely tree – as I mentioned previously, we’re clearly in the hands of skilled natural history illustrators, here.

Triceratops by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

Triceratops puts in an appearance too, as one might expect, and it also is quite conventional-looking, with a pretty well-observed head. The animals’ limbs are rather pudgy and formless by today’s standards, but for the time, that was rather normal. I do like the individual variation shown in the animals’ horns, and the pleasing use of shadow and dappled light over on the left. The background cloudscape is quite beautiful, and together with less immediately obvious touches (like the two birds in the foreground), helps immerse us in this unfamiliar world.

It’s the Corythosaurus over on the right that really ages this scene – it’s a proper man-in-a-suit beastie, seemingly plantigrade and with rather stumpy, useless-looking forelimbs. Although long regarded as being faculatively bipedal, the shift to depicting hadrosaurs as being mostly quadrupedal in artworks took rather a long time, presumably because of the influence of artists like Burian and Knight.

Protoceratops by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

And now, ‘cos it’s a ceratopsian and I feel obliged to include it, here’s Protoceratops. I really like the perspective here – low to the ground, with the adult animal appearing very large in the frame, but with plants over on the right to provide a sense of scale. It’s almost a hatchling’s-eye-view. Here, we can see that Protoceratops has been speculatively depicted as a brood parasite, with its young emerging from a nest of oviraptorosaur eggs. (Relax, I’m kidding.) When I was growing up, dinosaur books and magazines seemed to be chock full of blue-hued Protoceratops, which never made much sense to me – why be a deep blue colour in the middle of a desert? The sandy-shaded scales on the animal here would seem to be more suitable. I’m quite intrigued by the shiny smoothness of the animal’s frill, perhaps implying that it was covered in keratin – an idea that’s been employed for Triceratops a few times, but seldom for Protoceratops.

Pachycephalosaurus by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

Ahead of a discussion on just how active dinosaurs were, we’re treated to the above illustration of two Pachycephalosaurus butting heads, as they were wont to do. Probably. Possibly. Interesting features here include the three-toed ornithopod-like feet with birdlike tarscal scutes (gasp!), the attractive reticulated pattern down the animals’ backs, and the fact that they seem to be living in some kind of steppe environment. I do really like the pose of the animal on the right, which has clearly collided with its opponent while running at full speed, kicking dirt up into the air as it goes. The herdmates watching from a safe distance are a must, of course. Someone should give them little tubs of popcorn.

Scolosaurus and Palaeoscincus by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

Rather less lively are these delightfully retro, squatting ankylosaurs, inhabiting a lovingly painted marsh environment. As you might expect, that’s Scolosaurus on the left (with standard truncated tail) and the dubious Palaeoscincus. Quite why people persisted in including the latter in dinosaur books for such a long time, when much better-known ankylosaurs were available, is anyone’s guess. Cultural inertia, maybe? We can’t see if the Ancient Skink has a tail club or not, so it’s essentially a generic nodosaur here, with something of a lizard- or turtle-like head. The artist does do an excellent job of making the animals’ armour appear suitably forbidding, particularly in the case of Scolosaurus‘ covering of grooved spines.

Stegosaurus by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

The book’s Stegosaurus are also quite retro, although fairly typical for the time, with crouched, almost sprawling forelimbs, dragging tails, and heads held close to the ground. Still, when compared with the earlier centrosaurs, the artist made a much better attempt at illustrating one from an unusual perspective. The patterns on their plates are also nifty, as is, of course, the richly forested (and topographically varied!) background.

Parasaurolophus by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

Back to the slightly peculiar hadrosaurs, now, and here’s the full Parasaurolophus piece as featured on the cover, revealing that – oh yes – there’s an early attempt at Quetzalcoatlus. It’s definitely a pin head, but does also appear to have a toothless beak, so it’s thankfully not a toothy nightmare monster that wants to eat your soul. It’s most likely inspired by Giovani Casselli’s effort from a couple of years prior, for which he was given no reference material whatsoever.

But, yes, hadrosaurs. These are considerably better than the man-in-suit Corythosaurus – they’re digitigrade, for a start, and have much better-defined anatomy, even if they’re still predominantly bipedal with oddly humanoid (webbed) hands. Hey, it was the 1970s. A blue-grey tongue can be seen protruding from the mouth of the individual in the foreground as it strains to reach some delicious pine needles, which is a nice touch. Note that, although depicted swimming in this illustration, hadrosaurs are emphatically not described in this book as being aquatic in habits, with Tweedie noting that various lines of evidence point to them eating tough plant material on terra firma (which is exactly what one is shown doing here).

Anatosaurus by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

Looking much more ‘modern’, thanks to their horizontal postures and straight, muscular tails, are these edmontosaurs (here going by the name Anatosaurus). Although Tweedie discounts the idea of hadrosaurs being predominantly amphibious, he does still subscribe to the notion of them escaping predators by taking to the water. Here, Tyrannosaurus can only look on in frustration as the two ornithopods make their grand getaway. If only he had a buoyant, air-filled skeleton and a strong pair of legs! Oh well. (Incidentally, this is – incredibly – the only life reconstruction of T. rex in the entire book. Wot, no T. rex hogging a double-page spread all by himself? Blasphemy!)

The splashing mud and water around the animals’ feet looks superb here, as does the unusually gloomy, overcast sky and, of course, all the vegetation. This is surely one of my favourite pieces in the whole book. The edmontosaur diving towards the viewer appears especially dynamic and well observed for the time.

Iguanodon by Wilcock Riley Graphic Art

And finally…a herd of Iguanodon tumble over a cliff, like lemmings that have been, er, manipulated by Disney. The big dummies. This scene, of course, relates to a certain quarry in Belgium, depicting what was long thought a likely explanation for the apparent mass grave. Tweedie mentions this, as well as describing the animals as “run[ning] with head and body leaning well forward, head balanced by the outstretched tail” – as seen here. Contrary to Zain Ahmed’s comment on the previous post, the author doesn’t appear to have any unusual notions on what Iguanodon‘s thumb spike could have been used for, and even casts doubt on its effectiveness as a predator deterrent. (That, and some of the other comments, left me wondering if people weren’t confusing this with another book with the same title.)

The reconstructions here are pretty decent for the time – the animals have muscular, outstretched tails, beefy necks, and robust forelimbs. The classic ‘perma-flexed elbows’ trope is mostly in evidence here, resulting in the tumbling individual on the right looking like it’s having a really great time. “See you in 125 million years!” Meanwhile, the theropod in the back just thinks they’ve all gone crazy, and appears to just be minding its own business. Still, lovely scenery (especially that waterfall) and another dapper reticulating pattern on the animals’ hides.

Next time: part 3! Possibly. Does anyone want to see some non-dinosaurs? Otherwise, I have an old book on marine reptiles lined up…

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Zain Ahmed
    August 18, 2022 at 3:54 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Tweedie thought Iguanodon’s thumb claw was a venom injector. They actually say this, no joke.

    • Reply
      Marc Vincent
      August 19, 2022 at 8:46 am

      Like I said in the post, “Contrary to Zain Ahmed’s comment on the previous post, the author doesn’t appear to have any unusual notions on what Iguanodon‘s thumb spike could have been used for”. Honestly, couldn’t find it, although I must admit to not having read it cover to cover. Do you have it, and if so, could you point me to the relevant page?

      • Reply
        Ben Hillier
        September 1, 2022 at 5:00 pm

        Anything from the Permian or Cenozoic is always welcome.

        And the marine reptiles too. I vote for both 😉

  • Reply
    MTW
    August 20, 2022 at 6:21 am

    I’ve still got my copy of this stored away safely, really happy to see you reviewing it (and yes please to the non-dinosaurs – I really want to see what you make of the Cynognathus!). My parents must have gotten this for me when I was very young as I don’t remember a time without it, and it massively influenced me (this was alway the dinosaur book I’d keep coming back to).
    Also, I’m much more of a lurker generally, but love the blog and the podcast!

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