Monday, July 16, 2012
Vintage Dinosaur Art: The fifth and final part of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs
Ah, the home straight. If you've followed us all the way through parts one, two, three and four, I salute you. And now...spiky things.
I received a whinge last week as I'd missed out the Scutellosaurus. Well, I had a plan for him all along, doubters! (As for Heterodontosaurus, well...there's bound to be a point in the near future when I become desperate for material.) Scutellosaurus was an early member of the Thyreophora, the clade containing the stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, and its rendition here is rather lizardlike, the dragging tail in particular.
What to say about Stegosaurus? Sauropods aside, it's the classic huge, lumbering, tiny-brained and unlikely-looking dinosaur. This unusual perspective is very effective in highlighting the animal's miniscule head, massive bulk and ridiculous pointy adornment. It deviates from truly old-fashioned restorations in that its head is well clear of the ground and its tail, although drooping, isn't necessarily being dragged. This notably differs from...
...the skeletal which, as with so many others in the book, is anachronistically old-fashioned even for the 1980s. In fact, it looks to be based on Marsh's from the 1890s, which was seemingly the basis for every restoration of the animal for decades. Still, beautifully drawn as always, and you've got to appreciate the multiple angles and close-ups of the skull, teeth and even vertebrae (very unusual for a popular book).
This Scelidosaurus is a very active-looking creature, a world away from earlier restorations that gave it sprawling limbs and a dragged tail. Its alertness is particularly emphasised by the upright position of its head and neck. It's a lovely illustration, and it seems odd that this is one of the less reproduced/copied out of those in this book.
Polacanthus; I've been riding on one, and this illustration became the definitive 'look' of this dinosaur for many people, especially as it was copied so much. In fact, I've known nostalgic twenty-somethings to get all upset when they find out that modern restorations of this animal are rather different (I'm not sure why - they're also spikier and far, far cooler). Its something of an evolution from Neave Parker's lizardy version (and the hideous Blackgang model obviously based on same), retaining the dragging tail while being rather more muscular and less...fat. Oh, and Nodosaurus and Hylaeosaurus too.
Another highly influential illustration, and undoubtedly one of the best of all. Rarely has an ankylosaur looked so dynamic, so exciting, so...furious! The viewer is really drawn into the animal's tiny, yellow eye as well, which is quite remarkable given how distracting all those spiky bits are.
This is also one of my favourite skeletal spreads in the book, especially for the overhead view of a Euoplocephalus skeleton. Artists have far too often mistakenly interpreted ankylosaurs as being sort of tubular - even Sibbick does in this book in some places - but that is to seriously underestimate how bizarre they were. Their hips were wide...absurdly wide. Of course, that also made them very sturdy, which is useful when you're not going to be running from that ravenous tyrannosaur in a hurry. Also illustrated are the muscles that an ankylosaur would probably have used to swing its tail at predators, an absolute favourite subject for palaeoartists and one that has produced a number of gems over the years...
...including this one. You've got to hand it to tyrannosaurs - they know how to strike a pose. This one's somehow toppling backwards, presumably while emitting an operatic cry of intense emotional trauma and aiming an eye at the critics in the crowd as the curtain falls. A suitably dramatic finish!