Monday, January 24, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Peter Barrett's Dinosaur Babies

Today's title is Dinosaur Babies, published by Random House in 1991 and featuring the illustrations of Peter Barrett. Barrett was a long-time illustrator who worked on a number of the titles of James Herriott of All Creatures Great and Small fame. Unlike a recent featured title by a famed artist that didn't live up to expectations, Barrett's work is top-notch here.

Dinosaur Babies

This is one of the notable few titles in this series that were both a)published after the "Dinosaur Renaissance" of the 60's and 70's, and b) incorporated those ideas into the drawings. The care and dedication to realistic portrayals of the dinosaurs sets it apart.

It's not perfect, though. One illustration that seems a bit off to me is this depiction of a Tyrannosaurus approaching a herd of Triceratops in the popular "circle the wagons" defensive arrangement. Rather than menacing the herd, it looks to me like T. rex is just passing by on his morning jog.

Tyrannosaurus and Trikes

The tyrannosaur's babies back at the nest could be better executed as well - here you see the familiar "slapper" orientation of tyrannosaur hands as opposed to the better-supported "clapper" orientation, AKA "bunny hands syndrome." I appreciate the shades of avian behavior, with the tyrannosaurs begging for food, but I also think they could be a bit more juvenile in their proportions.

Tyrannoosaur Babies

In other spots, the juvenile nature of the babies is clear, as in the Psittacosaurus and Apatosaurus below.

Psittacosaurus Baby

Apatosaurus Baby

One nice aspect of the book is that it occasionally depicts the Mesozoic world from the perspective of a baby dinosaur, giving the rare chance to get up in a dinosaur's grill, as in this portrait of an Apatosaurus.


The book wouldn't be doing its job without ample space dedicated to the "good mother lizard" herself, Maiasaura. In addition to the popular hadrosaurs making the cover, the book looks at the drama of a nesting site, as a pair of Troodons decide to put eggs on the menu for their next meal.

Troodon in the Maisaura Nesting Grounds

If written now, the book would likely include downy fuzz on the baby tyrannosaurs, some indication of the long tail quills of adult psittacosaurs, and probably not depict sauropods as nurturing parents, as it seems that they probably laid massive amounts of eggs, sea turtle style, in the hope that sheer numbers would sustain the species.

Of course, we'd all like a second chance. I, for instance, would prevent an errant hair from falling onto the scanner glass. These helpless baby maiasaurs deserve better.

Maiasaura Babies

Quick note: Talk about second chances... As pointed out by a reader, this post was originally titled and tagged incorrectly with the name of a paleontologist named Paul Barrett instead of the artist's name, Peter Barrett. I deleted the original so the URL would reflect the proper name. Sorry for proving once again that I am indeed a huge doofus.

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