Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Robert Ayton

This week's title, shared with the Vintage Dinosaur Art pool by Sharon Wegner-Larson, is Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by Graham Wellfare, with illustrations by Robert Ayton. Ayton is an other veteran illustrator; his focus for most of his career seems to have mainly been on non-fiction titles, with some fairy tales tossed in for good measure. He's particularly known for his work with Ladybird, a British publisher of childrens' titles.

Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

Published in the late seventies, the title does reflect some dinosaur renaissance ideas, for instance the theropod origin of birds. But much of the artwork is still rooted in the classic portrayals of dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals, pg 44-45

Oddly enough considering the upright posture in the last image, this page of scale drawings portrays Tyrannosaurus as walking with the correct posture.
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals, inside of back cover

No old dinosaur book is complete without a few Charles R. Knight homages, and here's a very Knightish Protoceratops. Not a shameless tracing as so many artists were gulity of, but clearly based on Knight's famous Protoceratops painting for the Field Museum.
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals, pg 42-43

And of course, our friends the pterosaurs get their time in the spotlight, and if you click the image to get a larger view, you'll read that the book held with the view that pterosaurs were primarily gliders, and idea that gave way to our modern view of pterosaurs as achieving true powered flight.
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals, pg 30-31

This next illustration of a mounted "Brontosaurus" made little bells go off in my head. Check out the cover of this Peter Zallinger book. Same angle, same pose! I suspect that both are based off of an actual mount somewhere - anyone know where? This one also looks similar - though from a different angle, it's holding its neck stiff like the other two. (See comments for the ID!)
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals, pg 15

Ayton's nephew has written a biography of him, which is available at Big thanks to Sharon for sharing these with the pool!


  1. The brontosaurus illustration appears to be drawn from the old AMNH mount as seen here:
    Even the support struts are identical to those in those in Ayton's version.

  2. Awesome. That makes a lot of sense. I figured it was something from one of the bigger museums.

  3. I have fond memories of the old mount in the early 1980s. The revised mount is incredible as well, but part of me misses the old, lumbering, monstrous brontosaurus.

  4. Not to mention the same Camarasaurus style skull on both the illustration and the old photo. On the 4th floor, the mount was successively in what is now the Mammals and Their Extinct Relatives Hall, then in what is now the Ornithischian Hall (then the Great Dinosaur Hall) and finally in the present Saurischian Hall, although at the time it was known as the Hall of Early Dinosaurs. I remember in 1953 when the mount was turned around to face entering visitors and the trackway added during that hall's renovation by Edwin H. Colbert. Lowell Dingus has details and plenty of old photos in his wonderful book, Next of Kin. More photos can be found at the AMNH site, Picturing the Museum, -
    Jerrold Alpern, AMNH Education Volunteer

  5. The size comparison T.rex is derived from another illustration, which I can't put my finger on at the moment. It also might have been chosen as it fits better on the page!
    Does anyone else find the Pterosaurs nakedness really weird? Looking at those pictures makes you realise that 'odd' and 'revolutionary' ideas about integument made a lot more sense visually on the animal than wibbly rubber skin of indeterminate wibblyness.

  6. Also loving the horned dinosaurs, particularly the Styracosaurus.
    Nicely rendered skin and colour choices.

  7. Ah, another excellent book I had. I really need to go to my parent's house and lurk through my old books.

  8. Thanks for all the great comments, all. Another good idea for a future post - take old illustrations and put them side by side with the mount that inspired them!

  9. Thanks for featuring these! It's so interesting learning more about the illustrators and the science/progression behind the images in these old books.

  10. Wonderful post! I also own that lovely book!

  11. I totally have this book - like, right beside me. It was given to me back in 1985 - I've loved dinosaurs ever since. I used to carry it around with me everywhere I went, like a teddy bear, except it was an awesome book on dinosaurs.

    Lemme know if you'd like to see some pictures of it! My favourite was page 54 and teh Baluchitherium - it was the most fun to pronounce. And the Coelodonta has a cool Mohawk (p. 56).

  12. Rogers - That's awesome! If you are a Flickr user, I began a group called Vintage Dinosaur Art. The link is at the top of the post, and is the perfect place to share stuff like that. I'd love to see more of Ayton's illustrations.

  13. I am Robert's nephew and from my records this book uses illustrations from Robert's earlier Prehistoric Animals and Fossils book. So take the date on that and back up 6 or 12 months and you'll know when he created it. Robert was careful in his research and a stickler for accuracy. I would appreciate any ISBN or publishing info anyone can provide. Honey Bear Books is not something I am familiar with.


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