46. Late Knight Thoughts, 1942

Charles Knight, who had begun his career as a dinosaur illustrator in the late 1890s, was still actively practicing his craft in the 1940s. In 1942 he authored a popular article for National Geographic Magazine, which he illustrated with new paintings that were apparently commissioned especially for this issue. These illustrations, which are the first of his to be printed in color, present quite a different style of dinosaur from the nimble, cavorting beasts of his early days. One painting shows a Protoceratops hunched over a clutch of eggs, while its mate stands stolidly watching. In another, a Styracosaurus is motionless in the foreground, while two Parasaurolophus individuals stand quietly in the distance. One illustration does show two tyrannosaurs fighting, but it is a very placid kind of confrontation, a far cry from Knight's fighting dryptosaurs of 1897 (see item 30),

Knight also painted a scene showing a herd of Diplodocus. In 1907 Knight had painted a Diplodocus rearing on its hind legs in search of food (see item 24). In the 1942 painting the animals are confined to the swamp, with one lone individual standing four-footed on land. The caption reads: "Harmless and stupid, the grotesque Diplodocus asked only to be left in peace." The image of the dinosaur as a slow and brainless behemoth, a view that would come to dominate popular perceptions of dinosaurs at midcentury, was here beginning to emerge.

We are not able to show any of the illustrations from this article in our Web catalog, because the National Geographic Society requested a fee that was prohibitive, given out budget for this project.

Source

Knight, Charles R. "Parade of life through the ages," in: National Geographic Magazine, vol. 81, no. 2 (February 1942), pp. 141-184. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 46.

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