32. An Agile Ornitholestes, 1914


Charles R. Knight was the first great illustrator of dinosaurs, and perhaps still the champion of the art. We have already seen his 1898 model of a pair of dryptosaurs, his 1901 sculpture of Triceratops, and his 1907 painting of the browsing Diplodocus. By 1914 his fame was such that the American Museum Journal devoted an entire article to his craft.

We are used to seeing color reproductions of his paintings today, but in the early decades of the century it was only the visitor to the American Museum or the United States National Museum who could see the original color canvases. Reproductions were scarce, and then always in black and white.

One of Knight's finest drawings is shown above: Ornitholestes catching Archaeopteryx. Since it was executed in charcoal, nothing is lost but size in the black-and-white reproduction. Ornithelestes had been described and named by Henry Osborn in 1903.


The specimen was nearly complete, so Osborn was able to include a skeletal restoration in his original paper. However, Osborn's restoration, while bipedal, did not show much sign of vim and vigor. Knight has restored not only flesh to the bones, but life, and indeed the joy of life, to the animal.

Knight painted much more than dinosaurs, and this article is largely concerned with his mammal restorations. But two other Knight dinosaurs are reproduced: his painting of Allosaurus feeding on the remains of a sauropod, and a charcoal sketch of Diplodocus (left).


Dickerson, Mary Cynthia. "Charles R. Knight--Painter and sculptor of animals," in: American Museum Journal, vol. 14 (1914), pp. 83-98. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 32.

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