Paleoartists

I hadn’t been aware that there are wildlife artists who specialize in depicting extinct fauna. Here’s a Quora answer that was eye-opening: Who is the greatest artist depicting extinct animals?

First, Mauricio Antón. He lives in Spain, and has the distinction of knowing more about sabertooth cats than perhaps anyone else in human history – I have several of his books on this topic alone.

The painting of the herd of Baluchitheriums is my favorite of the ones shown in this answer. You should click over to the answer and take a look.

Here’s Mauricio Antón’s website. The link goes to one of his galleries, but if you have a minute, poke around on the site. I notice on his publications page that I have one of the books he illustrated: Dogs, their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History. Xiaoming Wang, Richard Tedford and Mauricio Antón. Columbia University Press, 2008. The illustrations are indeed very good, from the skeletons on up to the animals set into their ecosystems. The cover of the book shows my least favorite image from the whole book. Here is an illustration I like a lot better:

These were not canids, but the image shows the type of illustration in this book. There are lots of side-by-side comparisons of different species.

Here’s Antón’s paleoart Twitter account, if you’re on Twitter and want to follow him.

The second artist covered in the Quora answer:

Secondly, Mark Witton. He’s one of the most well-known modern paleontologists, being especially famous for his research on pterosaurs. He also published The Paleoartist’s Handbook in 2018, which might well be the most comprehensive book on accurately reconstructing prehistoric life.All his paintings have an unmistakable atmosphere – gritty, but somehow surreal. You’d know they were his from a mile away, with that unique art style. His more speculative depictions are really interesting, too.

A lot of these images are filled with life and motion. He’s got a Twitter account too, here. He also has a blog, here. A recent entry: Dinosaur fossils and Chinese dragons: ancient association or modern wishful thinking?

Isn’t that a great, intriguing title for a post? Don’t you want to click through and read that?

Geomythology is a discipline that most of us are familiar with even if we’ve not heard of this term: the study of possible associations between real geological phenomena and myths and legends. The idea that certain fossils were somehow involved in the creation or development of mythical creatures is a subject we’ve discussed several times at this blog, including the purported fossil associations of griffinscyclopes, giants and unicorns. Although proverbial kernels of truth underlie some of these proposals, many examples – including famous claims about Protoceratops and griffins, and elephant skulls and cyclopes, are actually nowhere near as well-supported as their popularity implies. A lot of geomythological hypotheses persist primarily because of uncritical retellings and a lack of skeptical examination.

Neat stuff.

Okay, the last artist from the Quora answer:

Last but not least, Peter Schouten. 

I became familiar with his work after buying a book on the end-Pleistocene extinction, which he illustrated. He is Australian, and in addition to painting a lot of living wildlife, he has a lot of artwork depicting the fauna of the Pleistocene epoch.

His website is here. I love the megafauna page.

Lots of wonderful artwork at this answer and the many linked sites. I hope you have a few minutes to enjoy all this.

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6 thoughts on “Paleoartists”

  1. Very cool! Who knew? This makes me think of the guy who imagines what existing animals would look like if drawn the way dinosaurs are usually drawn — just skin over muscle, without fat or other adornment. Pretty bizarre. His name is C.M. Kosemen and the most famous article about him is probably this one from 2015 https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/natashaumer/dinosaur-animals. It also reminds me of the guy who is trying to rehabilitate the image of bats as part of efforts to protect them and their habitats. He takes pictures of them that are cute, not scary. (there is one photo here that is not cute) https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/10/bats-photos-halloween-inquiring-minds/

  2. Thanks for the links, R Morgan. There’s no doubt that people are doing much better recreations of dinosaurs now than they used to.

    Bats ARE cute! I’ve always wondered why anyone would think them scary.

  3. Is there sex selection in natural history technical drawing? Men do the animals. Women do the plants!
    (And Haeckel did the foraminifera.)

  4. Bats are definitely cute – I was showing my 2 year old a video of a fruit bat a while back and she said “puppy!”. Close enough.

    Saw an article recently about an effort to reconstruct the scents of extinct plants.

    Always loved the zoobooks illustrations where they’d show all the past versions of whatever animal that issue was about (distinctly remember a horse one)

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