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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Paleoartistic Highlights on the Web

“The science of paleontology has always been inextricably tied to art.”
- Davidson (2008)

In 1995 Michael Brett-Surman, dinosaur collection manager of the Smithsonian, checked for damage after a pipe burst in the ceiling and discovered 1200 palaeontological illustrations on top of a specimen storage cabinet. After this manifestation of serendipity, the museum began to provide archival care for palaeontological illustration.
The PaleoArt website describes various artistic techniques.
The paleoartistic efforts of the Smithsonian are expressed through a comprehensive website: PaleoArt - Highlights from the Department of Paleobiology. The website is divided in three sections, each of which is presenting different aspects of paleoart with numerous practical examples. The first section is organized around the historical collection of the museum, including a Triceratops by Charles Knight and numerous illustrations prepared under the supervision of the famous 19th century paleontologist Othinel Charles Marsh.
 The second section is devoted to paper conservation, applied to the paleoartistic treasure of the Smithsonian. The last section deals with the creative techniques for palaeontological illustration. From graphite pencil to digital illustration, this section is very rich in content and gives the idea of the tremendous amount of work and knowledge for producing palaeontological illustration.
In conclusion, “PaleoArt - Highlights from the Department of Paleobiology” gives a very vivid impression of palaeontological illustration, its evolution, techniques and conservation. Definitely a must-click for the art and palaeontology enthusiast!

The Smithsonian collection includes a wonderful painting by Charles Knight, comprehensively described in the website.


Davidson, J., 2008. A History of Paleontology Illustration. Indiana University Press, 2008
217 pp.

See also:
Switek, Brian, 2009. [Review of A History of Paleontology Illustration]. Palaeontologia Electronica Vol. 12, Issue 1, R3; 2pp.;