Vintage Dinosaur Art: On the Trail of the Dinosaurs – Part 2

Vintage Dinosaur Art

We’re back on the trail of the dinosaurs with Mike Benton and Graham Rosewarne, two giants of the extremely niche genre of Popular British Dino Rennaissance Books (always well-represented on these pages). Last time, we looked mostly at Rosewarne’s panoramic compositions and found ourselves maybe a bit less than extremely impressed. But Rosewarne is at his best when drawing dinosaur profiles, and fortunately, this book allows him to do plenty of that.

One of Rosewarne’s most famous and well-remembered creations is his sleek, long-snouted, tiger-striped Deinonychus as it appeared in Dinosaurs! Magazine, a highly influential reconstruction representing the next step in what Robert Bakker had begun. A dangerous creature full of character, impossible to mistake for anything else. This earlier Deinonychus isn’t quite on that level. Instead of tiger stripes, it’s got leopard spots, and its limbs are extemely lanky and flimsy-looking. There’s still a lot to love here. Though not as intimidating as the later one, this is still a very dynamic, dangerous and lively looking animal. Little details such as the tongue, the strongly defined muscles and the black-and-white tip of the tail make this ultimately a believable creature.

Oviraptor‘s history is more convoluted than you might think, and this book from 1989 finds it in its weird crestless, nose-horned phase. I’m not too up on exactly how all of this went down, but this is a pretty wild take on the egg thief. Its neck is particularly strange. The sheer length of the neck isn’t inaccurate, but its massive, um, girth, does stand out, especially compared to the scrawniness of the head and the limbs. The colour scheme looks like something Peter Zallinger might have come up with, except it’s tan and purple instead of tan and green. We’ve also got ourselves a dragging tail, a pitfall Rosewarne avoids elsewhere.

This is an odd one. Heterodontosaurus has jumped clear off the ground, like a cat spooked by a cucumber. Whenever I see a dynamic pose like this, with no limbs touching the ground, I am immediately put in mind of Bakker. The intense scutes on the hands and feet are a very Paulian trademark. The colours, however, are pure Rosewarne, with the simple, subtle colouration and the horizontal stripes.

Here’s one I’ve definitely seen before. Some of these reconstructions would re-appear in a later book called Dinosaurs: Identifying which Marc reviewed here and here. Salty here is the only big sauropod to appear in a spotter’s guide image like this, and it holds up rather well compared to all the sluggish Sibbick-saurs that were everywhere at the time (including in this very book). I like how the back armour covers the animal’s back like a tortoise shell.

Is this the only Renaissance-era Maiasaura that isn’t brown? Like all Rosewarne-saurs, our mama hadrosaur here is sleek and muscular, and looks very powerful and majestic. Once more, Rosewarne demonstrates why he was, after all, a cut above the rest. Even the so-called “duckbill” (a term ripe for retirement) is toned-down, and the animal is given a stern, horse-like visage. And those curiously round cheeks that Rosewarne likes to give to his herbivores.

The pachycephalosaurs are not depicted charging head-first into each other, like you usually see. Rather, they are rearing up, like goats do just before smashing their heads together. Or maybe they are doing more of a ritualized display rather than an all-out battle, which is what you would see in real animals. Again, Rosewarne’s reconstruction is on-point. I love the detail of the pink heads but also the pink chest, as if that area is also part of the display. Not sure what the feet of the one on the left are doing.

That is a gorgeous Stegosaurus. I’ve seen more images of Stegosaurus rearing up against a tree like that, made around the same time. I wonder if Rosewarne started it. Given how often he still copies other artists at this point in his career, you have to wonder.

Hang on, I’ve seen an image of a Protoceratops mid-lay somewhere else! That would be the image archive of this old curiosity, the Dinosaurs! Multimedia Encyclopedia, reviewed here and here, illustrated by Valerie Bennett. And looking back, I can see the Rosewarne influrence all over her work for that program, to the point where I wonder why I didn’t see it at the time. Like Bennett’s Protoceratops, watching an animal in the middle of laying an egg, eyes closed in concentration (constipation?) feels oddly intimate, even when the egg itself looks squeaky-clean. The animal looks a bit strange, its head oddly bumpy. Is Protoceratops‘ snout really that deep?

And that’s On The Trail Of The Dinosaurs, a nice look into Graham Rosewarne’s early career! I wonder what Graham is up to now? He doesn’t seem to have much of an active web presence these days. To be honest, I don’t even know if he’s still with us. Maybe he did what his fellow Dinosaurs! Magazine alumnus Steve White didn’t; maybe he held on to his artworks, watched their value skyrocket as our generation grew up and now lives in a mansion on the Isle of Wight next to Lord Sibbick himself. One can speculate.

Next time, in a not wholly dissimilar vein: Who wants some vintage Donna Braginetz?

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Marc Vincent
    August 24, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    The Deinonychus really resembles a Peter Snowball piece.

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