Monday, August 19, 2013

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs and more Dinosaurs - Part 2

Onwards with the second part of our exploration of this frequently unsettling book. Do take a look at part 1 and David's 2010 post on the artist (George Solonevich) for more background.

Dinosaurs and more Dinosaurs might boast a significant number of relatively obscure beasts when compared with similar books, but that doesn't mean it shies away from the staples. Here, for example, we have an Iguanodon, easily identified by its approving hand gestures. There's something particularly peculiar about the head on this beast - it seems to have borrowed the head of a theropod from a more sober book (in DaMD, it would have dozens of moray-like teeth and/or a snaking tongue). The oddly humanoid proportions of the forelimbs are, of course, entirely in keeping with contemporary depictions of the animal. All in all, this one isn't too 'out there'; it's not like it's scaling a tree trunk, flicking out a lizardy tongue and brandishing a feathered tail, for example.

Yeah, you saw that one coming, I know.  In any case, Hypsilophodon is hardly known for bringing the crazy; the poor little creature is normally depicted scurrying around (or running hastily away from) much larger, more awesomebro species. Sure, there was the infamous 'tree kangaroo' Neave Parker depiction, but even then it was just standing around, looking suitably placid and harmless. Leave it to Solonevich to make even this most innocuous of animals into a creeping, crawling nightbeast with many-jointed limbs, a feathered (or is that beaver-like?) tail and Venom's tongue. By comparison, the gangly, vertical Ornithomimus on the right looks very conventional indeed, and there is something quite beautiful about its lovingly 'sculpted' legs.

Speaking of the conventional versus the very unconventional, the majority of the book's ankylosaurs follow the era's rather dull tendency to produce squat, short-tailed, no-necked armadillo-turtles. This more unusual depiction, then, is surely to be welcomed, even if it looks still more outlandish. The bony nodules are superbly painted - it's almost possible to get a tangible sense of how rough this animal's hide is - but I'm sure you're nevertheless wondering what on Earth this thing is supposed to be. Well, it's Pinacosaurus (here identified as Syrmosaurus). Hey, at least it's got a nice long tail, right?

Now here's a fun exercise in pointless hypothetical alterna-history - what if, just as Waterhouse Hawkins was sculpting the mighty Crystal Palace monstrosities, someone had tripped over a hadrosaur skull weathering out of a hillside somewhere? What would have happened had Hawkins hurriedly incorporated it into his dino designs? I like to think that the result would have looked something like the above. I'm particularly fond of the melty feet and hugely thick neck and tail. Magnificent stuff.

While the above Anatosaurus (aka Anatotitan, aka Edmontosaurus) is furnished with the full-mega-portly-body treatment, only the head of Pachycephalosaurus is shown. There's a good reason for this, of course; Pachycephalosaurus isn't known from very much else, so any full-body reconstruction would be subject to a great amount of speculation, and might end up looking a bit freaky some decades down the line.

I love its angry little face. Bless.

If you want marginocephalians in all their glory, you'll have to consult the ceratopsian pages. The above animal has a masterfully textured toad body. Somehow, it's ended up with the (not all that bad, for the time) head of a Styracosaurus. I'm sure it's a mask.

Of course, bring in the ceratopsians, and you also have to present their perpetual foes. Opposite Styracosaurus we have the frightful Gorgosaurus, a cross between a hen, a snake and a Cornish pasty. The character that Solonevich brings to this hunchbacked killer pastry is fantastic; note also the way in which the viewer's eye is expertly drawn to that hideous, bristling maw. Nevertheless, there's only one animal we could possibly end on...

Disappointingly, Solonevich's Tyrannosaurus isn't particularly unusual for the time; there are definite shades of both Neave Parker and, especially, Zdenek Burian. This Rexy is a dead ringer for Burian's monochrome Gorgosaurus, in particular, right down to the gleaming, greasy skin textures. What the prey is intended to represent isn't mentioned. Dave Hone noted that its head looks remarkably like those on contemporary reconstructions of small pterosaurs like Rhamphorynchus; the combination of this mismatched head, extremely thin skin-flap neck and leggy bipedal body is a bit of a mystery. We can only assume that, as with so many of the other illustrations in this book, Solonevich just thought it looked pretty damn...interesting. And it certainly does.


  1. A feathered tail on the Hypsilophodon would have been showing remarkable foresight, whether by accident or design. I suppose I would describe it as 'barbed'. Reminds me of an Aloe vera leaf.

  2. Well, the illustrations in this book (especially the nightmare fuel-errific hadrosaur-thing, ankylosaurs-thing, and [ahem] Hypsilophodon) sure are somethin'. O_o

    Meanwhile, Pachycephalosaurus looks like an Angry Bird!

  3. The library in my hometown, Peoria,Il.,had the hardback edition of this, and years later, in the early 80s, I found a copy of the paperback edition & bought it; still got it. I actually enjoyed the book when a kid,(and still do), even though many of the illustrations are "slightly" off, I think that, as a kid, my imagination was excited by the somewhat 3D effect of the textured paintings. actually, while many (most?) of the paintings are rather bad by today's standards, by mid-60s standards they were actually not that bad, especially for a children's book.

  4. "and brandishing a feathered tail, for example"

    They look more like spiky scales than feathers.

    "I love its angry little face. Bless."

    Maybe someone should start a "grumpy Pachycephalosaurus" meme. ;)

    "What the prey is intended to represent isn't mentioned. "

    I think it's supposed to be Anatosaurus, given it's long flattened snout & the fact that it seems to be moving on all fours (at least 3 feet are on the ground).


    P.S. I have this book too. A grade school teacher gave it to me, so it's very nostalgic.

    1. Spiky scales would certainly make more sense. There are certain lizards with tails very much like that. Good spot.

  5. That Anatosaurus looks like Gertie the dinosaur, with that wide mouth, the long neck and the odd, flat feet

    1. Hey, you're right. I hadn't thought of that.

    2. Gosh, yes. That hadn't occurred to me either, but how uncanny.

  6. My guess for the last one would be Trachodon. I know it looks nothing like that but seeing the Anatosaurus above and given that it was commonly depicted as prey
    to T. rex, it seems likely. It's certainly more likely that than any other prey animal of the time, because you have to squint a lot to make that a Triceratops (or Euoplocephalus for that matter). It's either that or the earliest known depiction of Quetzalcoatlus.
    Also of note, I'm not convinced T. rex is acting as a predator here. I think he's being an unusually angry yoga instructor.

  7. This has some different artwork from my copy of this book, as well as the larger one I used to check out at the library. My 'Anatosaurus' looks nothing like the one pictured in your post (in fact it's depicted as bipedal) and the Tyrannosaurus' victim in my copy is unmistakeably a hadrosaur. My copy is a ninth printing from 1972, which I would guess is more recent than your copy.

    1. That's right - my copy's from 1965. (Although it's not really 'my' copy as I borrowed it from Dave Hone - see part 1!)

    2. I thought the same thing. I had this book when I was a kid as well and I remember the "victim" in the last image as being a hadrosaur, pursing its duck-billed lips in an O. "Whoa, where'd that come from?"

  8. Another great post! It may be of interest to know that the elephantine Anatosaurus is not in the original edition. The first illustration is much more conventional and beautifully executed, which makes one wonder if the Anatohephalump here depicted is an original Solonevich.

    I have to respectfully disagree on your assessment of his Tyrannosaurus. It is one of most impressive illustrations of the book, and is somewhat unusual in depicting the beastie with thick, muscular legs and even more muscular (and oversized) arms. The pimples on his snout are masterful. The strange beast it's pursuing is let down by that odd, almost comical head. A number of artists have tried to illustrate a generic ornithopod being downed by a tyrannosaur, probably so as not to distract too much attention from the main feature of the illustration. But this creature is too bizarre to be considered generic. As a child I thought it might be a hadrosaur - but not with those teeth. A dryptosaur perhaps? Or maybe it's a dinosaur that hasn't been discovered yet. Why not? That's how I rationalised it.

    More please!

    1. I agree that the T. rex is quite an achievement artistically; my suggestion that it was disappointingly unfreaky when compared with the other illustrations was very much tongue-in-cheek.

      I would be interested to know what year the earlier edition is from, as the one I've borrowed (from 1965) makes no mention of any earlier publication date.


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