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.
“Extreme dinosaurs” and the continuing evolution of dinosaur paleoart
Published:February 24, 2022
Humans have made visual representations of what they think dinosaurs looked like since before the term and concept of “dinosaur” were first published in 1842. Over the next 175 years, these images have varied widely. The current era of dinosaur paleobiology began in the late 1960s and emphasized scientific and artistic conceptions of dinosaurs as more active and diverse in their metabolism, ecology, and behavior than previously thought. Over the past 25 years in particular, the rise of computer-generated images and the discovery of spectacularly preserved fossils from the Early Cretaceous of China and elsewhere have further revolutionized our understanding of the biology and external appearance (especially integument) of dinosaurs. Yet despite these innovations, dinosaur paleoart is still fundamentally shaped by the same basic set of influences that affected previous, now-discarded, images. These include (1) the fossils; (2) debates about which modern animals are the best bases for uniformitarian comparison with extinct taxa; (3) extrapolation (i.e., how far can we go from the known to the unknown); (4) the enabling effects of new artistic techniques; and (5) the ever-present pressures of the marketplace.