The Evolution of Paleontological Art
CONTAINS OPEN ACCESS
Fossils have stirred the imagination globally for thousands of years, starting well before they were recognized as the remains of once-living organisms and proxies of former worlds. This volume samples the history of art about fossils and the visual conceptualization of their significance starting with biblical and mythological depictions, extending to renditions of ancient life as it flourished in long-vanished habitats, and on to a modern understanding that fossil art conveys lessons for the betterment of the human condition. The 29 papers and accompanying artwork illustrate how art about fossils has come to be a significant teaching tool not only about evolution of past life, but also about conservation of our planet for the benefit of future generations.
The Fritz Zerritsch/Erich Thenius suite of paleontological wall roll-ups and the pageant-of-life-through-time genre of paleontological art
Published:February 24, 2022
Stephen M. Rowland, 2022. "The Fritz Zerritsch/Erich Thenius suite of paleontological wall roll-ups and the pageant-of-life-through-time genre of paleontological art", The Evolution of Paleontological Art, Renee M. Clary, Gary D. Rosenberg, Dallas C. Evans
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Here I rescue from obscurity a mid-twentieth-century sequence of ten paintings representing biotas and ecosystems present in different periods of geologic time. They were used to illustrate a 1955 book titled The History of Life on Earth by University of Vienna paleontologist Erich Thenius. The paintings were also mass produced as classroom teaching aids in the form of wall chart roll-ups. Thenius collaborated with Viennese landscape artist Fritz Zerritsch to produce these scenes from Deep Time. In terms of the selection and arrangement of animals in some of the scenes, Thenius and Zerritsch were probably influenced by well-known paleoartists Rudolph Zallinger and Charles R. Knight. I corresponded with Professor Thenius concerning his collaboration with Zerritsch, and his answers to my questions illuminate some of the choices he made. The Zerritsch/Thenius collection of paleo-scenes is a good example of the pageant-of-life-through-time genre of paleontological art. I use this sequence of prehistoric tableaux to examine artistic conventions within this genre.