Ugh, where am I?
What? What’s going on?
What duh? What are you talking about?
Melodramatic T. Rex? You’re here too?
Man, I need new friends.
So, why am I here.
And that would be…?
OK, I see where you are going with this. Yes. I started this blog so that people may look at dinosaurs differently than the old Knightian portrayals, and I often say looking like such depictions in modern media is a mistake.
But don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Charles Knight’s work, in fact, he’s probably my favorite paleo-artist.
But that’s not Charles’ fault. I said in my introduction that I would only judge a work by the standards of it’s time, not by information that we’ve only recently found. And yes, it’s hard to keep that ideology for every review, but I try judge that way as much as possible. No one was doing better paleo art at the time, and all his artwork is gorgeous. In fact, I think I can find a few that still hold up scientifically today!
Those are all the Knight pictures I’ve used in my reviews.
Well, yeah I guess you’re right. But I truly only mean to do that if a modern work portrays them like this. As they are and for their time, they are beautiful.
You see, at the time many people had a hard time picturing the fossils of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures as living animals. Sure, there were plenty of dinosaur artists at the time, but many of them didn’t really show the dinosaurs as actual animals living in habitats. Charles Knight was one of the first to really portray dinosaurs as living animals existing in an ecosystem, as scientific realities and not fantastical monsters. Looking at them now we might just think the opposite, but what he was doing back then was as revolutionary as the first depiction of a feathered dinosaur.
For example, I particularly love this illustration of Triceratops, and not just because I have a soft spot for old school Triceratops restorations. Like I said, many people had a hard time picturing a skin around the bones of these animals. However, Knight embraced the concept. He added a lot of weight and body mass to his dinosaurs, which is especially evident in this picture. Later in history, artist wouldn’t put so much fat on the dinosaurs fearing it would make them look sluggish. However, now scientist frown on the artistic depiction of ‘shrink wrapping’ dinosaurs, which means to just put a thin layer of skin over bones with very little fat or muscle. Look what would happen if we render a modern animal the same way we render many dinosaurs.
So really, Charles portrays his dinosaurs in some aspects better than many do today!
I also love this famous image of the T. rex facing off the Triceratops, as it looks much better compared to the frog faced one I’ve seen earlier. Also, the T. rex has a horizontal stance!!! Sure, the one in the background is standing like a tripod, but progress is progress.
It’s OK guys, I got it. I think it’s time to show you one of my favorite works of Knight. Behold…
This depiction of fighting theropods was decades ahead of it’s time. Most depiction of large theropods at the time made them look clumsy and slow, waddling around to their next meal. But this depiction has these creatures as fast moving plunderers, an image that didn’t become popular until Deinonychus was discovered. Sure, they don’t look particularly like the dinosaurs Knight was trying to depict (Laelops, now called Dryptosaurus), it’s still an amazing piece, especially for 1896!!!!!
I also love Knight’s Dimetrodons. I think his work helped popularize the images of these creatures, and may have also been responsible for so many people mistaking them as contemporaries of dinosaurs (or dinosaurs themselves).
This painting of a Mosasaur is also great. It’s very dynamic, with the waves beautifully drawn. It’s as if you were on the ocean and actually saw this creature for yourself.
His greatest work, however, belongs to his Cenozoic creatures.
Charles restorations of Wooly Mammoths are instantly recognizable, and nearly every restoration of the creatures takes inspiration from them. And why wouldn’t they? They’re absolutely beautiful!!
This image of a Phorusrhacos is a personal favorite of mine, as I have a soft spot for terror birds. I just love how accurate it is, so much so that images like this can still be used for educational purposes today.
Another creature Knight helped popularize is the weird creature Unitatheres. Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve probably seen him before, possibly in your toy box.
I really love Wooly Rhinos. The idea of a big, shaggy rhinoceros roaming around the tundra is irresistible to me. So of course, I love Knight’s restoration.
And of course we have Knight’s iconic restoration of the Smilodon, the Sabre Tooth Tiger. Much like his Wooly Mammoths, many restorations today were inspired by this one. Whenever someone mentions this animal, this is the image that first pops into their heads. It’s breathtaking.
OK then, how about I make a list of my Top Ten favorite Charles Knight paintings?
10. Nesting Protoceratops
Yeah, I know the Protoceratops are a bit lizardy, but this is notable for being one of the earliest depictions of dinosaurs caring for their eggs.
The image that forever changed this dinosaurs reputation. Now because of it, little Ornitholestes is always snatching up some poor bird or pterosaur somewhere.
I love the classic look of this guy. It’s inspired so many depictions, and is the thing people first think of when they here ‘duckbill’.
Though highly speculative, it’s still very cool.
I love the weight, built, and overall classic look if this painting.
5. Wooly Mammoth
Knight’s mammoths are iconic, and nothing will ever match them.
4. La Brea Tar Pits
This image perfectly captures the chaos of this famous site, to a point that it is still very accurate to this day.
3. Sabre Tooth Tiger
Such an iconic pose, an image that defines the very creature itself.
2. T. Rex vs. Triceratops
Do I need a reason. It’s a T. rex vs. a Triceratops!!!
1. Leaping Laelops
Decades ahead of its time and an artistic triumph either way.
So, have I proved myself as actually a huge fan of Charles Knight?
I know, I know, we have come a long way since then. In fact, Knight was even criticized for accuracy in hi time. People thought his depictions were more artistic than actual scientific pieces, which is how many people view his work today. You can’t deny how many people he inspired in this field, however. Charles’ work has had more influence on science and pop culture than perhaps any other paleo-artist ever!! And even then, he tried to push the boundaries of what was known, and helped make several contributions to dinosaur science. He was truly one of a kind, and we’ll never have another man like him.
Hey, were’s Time Traveling Cynodont.
What’s with that guy?
Join me next time as I look at the time after the dinosaurs….
Walking with Beasts is next.