Monday, March 12, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Victor Ambrus

This week's featured book comes from the collection of Terry Thielen, who generously uploaded some scans to the swelling Flickr Vintage Dinosaur Art pool. It's up to 1,085 images, which is pretty splendid, if you ask me. I noticed today that Terry has now eclipsed me as the top contributor to the pool. I need to get my scanning pants on!*

The World of Dinosaurs is illustrated by Hungarian artist Victor Ambrus, and in contrast to some of the more polished books we've featured here, it's messy and expressive, giving the book a distinctly savage tone. Ambrus is one of the select few artists featured in this series to warrant his own wikipedia entry, and is featured as an illustrator for the BBC4 series Time Team. Said team is not, I'm afraid, made up of scrappy youngsters in colorful apparel having kooky adventures in time travel. But I'm sure it's still a crackin' good show. Anyhoo: The World of Dinosaurs!

The cover advertises up front that this isn't some candy-coated stroll down Mesozoic Boulevard: this is a brutal realm where allosaurs have the cajones to dare a frontal assault on sauropods which greatly outweigh them.


My favorite paleoart meme is back! Ambrus offers his own take on the bird-hunting Ornitholestes. Again, his refusal to trace old Zallinger, Knight, and Burian poses earns big kudos.

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His Deinonychus, on the other hand, hews closely to the iconic portrayal Bakker brought us in the late sixties, with its high-steppin' gait. The book came out in 1976, hot on the heels of the Deinonychus description and just as the Dinosaur Renaissance was stepping on the gas.

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Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops square off again, natch. I've run out of things to say about this face-off.

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My favorite image is this Parasaurolophus, dripping with personality. This may not have been what it would have been like to happen upon a hadrosaur in the Cretaceous, but it's too cool to simply stamp "inaccurate" on it and forget it.

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Terry writes that the scans he's shared don't do justice to the book, and recommends tracking down a copy if possible. It's definitely one I'd like to add to my collection. Thanks for sharing it, Terry!

* Yes, I own a pair of slacks reserved solely for the scanning of obscure dinosaur books. Of course I do.


  1. Oh, gosh, Victor Ambrus is one of my favourite illustrators and one of my many influences! But would you believe I never knew he illustrated dinosaurs at one point? The shame. I'm more familiar with his historical and literary work. I definitely must track a copy of this down.

  2. I'm so glad that you chose to spotlight this book. I found it at a thrift store for under a dollar. It's bigger than my scanner. It's 9 1/4"x by 12 3/4"! and hardcover, so it's not easily squished into my scanning bed. A lot of the images are 2 page spreads and I'm sorry I could not get better scans.

    also, I think I'm nearing the end of my collection (for now!) so, I'll need to restock before the next round of scanning. You got some time to take the title back, David. ;)

  3. In the second pic, I think that's meant to be Compognathus chasing Archie. The neck doesn't look long enough for Ornitholestes. Good stuff anyway. Nothing for a week and then - bam! two vint-dino art reviews ("vint-dino art" is how the cool people refer to it).

  4. The depictions may be inaccurate, but the art is pretty solid. These are some well-balanced compositions. The Parasaurolophus page reminds me of Renaissance "triangle."

    1. 'Pretty solid' is an immense understatement, if I may be forgiven for saying so. ;) Victor Ambrus is a consummate master of his craft.


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