It was 1830 when an English scientist named Henry De la Beche painted the first piece of paleoart, a dazzling, deliciously macabre vision of prehistoric reptiles battling underwater. Since then, artists the world over have conjured up visions of dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, cavemen, and other creatures, shaping our understanding of the primeval past through their exhilarating images.
In this unprecedented new book, writer Zoë Lescaze and artist Walton Ford present the astonishing history of paleoart from 1830 to 1990. These are not cave paintings produced thousands of years ago, but modern visions of prehistory: stunning paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, mosaics, and murals that mingle scientific fact with unbridled fantasy. The collection provides an in-depth look at this neglected niche of art history and shows how the artists charged with imagining extinct creatures often projected their own aesthetic whims onto prehistory, rendering the primordial past with dashes of Romanticism, Impressionism, Japonisme, Fauvism, and Art Nouveau, among other influences.
With an incisive essay from Lescaze, a preface by Ford, four fold-outs, and dozens of details, the book showcases a stunning collection of artworks culled from major natural history museums, obscure archives, and private collections, and includes new photography of key works, including Charles R. Knight’s seminal paintings in Chicago and little-known masterpieces such as A. M. Belashov’s monumental mosaic in Moscow. From the fearsome to the fantastical, Paleoart is a celebration of prehistoric animals in art, and a novel chance to understand our favorite extinct beasts through an art historical lens.