A Paleo Art Gallery?

Hey there every peoples!

Now if you’ve read my “Grand Vision” page you’ll know that I have a pretty grandiose dream for the future. I am always thinking up new ideas, no matter how implausible. My mind just comes up with stuff, usually influenced by something I recently read and, as in this case, where I have been.

This weekend I visited my sister in Pasadena (she just moved back from Virginia). We went to the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. The place is very expansive, with exquisite gardens recreating different environments. My favorite was the jungle garden, which felt like the real thing; it felt more realistic given the rainy weather:

The Jungle Garden at the Huntington Library

The place also has a couple buildings full of art. They are very big! We spent an hour and a half in the European art house and didn’t see everything! Now I’m not much for art, but even this place managed to keep me busy. The most time I spent in one area was the Thornton Gallery, which is where this post’s topic comes from. The Thornton Gallery is a large space featuring 17th-18th century portraits and busts. It features hardwood floors and a glass ceiling, seamlessly blending old style galleries with modern flare:

The Thornton Gallery (from Flickr user penn2009)

I sat there on the bench thinking about not the art on display but the space it occupied. My mind was abuzz with what this gallery could be like in a paleontological context (as that’s how my mind works). As usual it started with skeletons down the center with individual fossils on the pedestals. But this thought quickly faded as that would look just like the fossil hall at the natural history museum in Paris. And then something else popped in there: paleo art…

Paleo art mixes science with art. It is an exercise in informed speculation and serves to bring lost worlds to life. Paleo art is greatly different than other art in the respect that paleo artists (at least to the extent of my knowledge) occupy a niche market. They are usually hired by museums to do murals or for artwork in publications such as books and magazines. But I thought about what a gallery like the Thornton would be like with paleo art. And suddenly I could see that vision with clarity. The walls are lined with beautifully painted portraits. But instead of European nobility, the frames are occupied by mighty dinosaurs and noble mammals. Between the portraits, pedestals are topped not by plaster busts but by bronze statues of beasts long gone.

Paleo art, for the most part, seems to be about creating murals that try to cram as many species into it as possible. Other times they depict dynamic interactions between different animals. Hardly do we see portraits of individuals like those in the Thornton Gallery. The closest I can think of coming to that is the work of Charles R. Knight. Perhaps this new fangled gallery could display some of his portraits.

So why not a gallery of paleo art in the manner of the Thornton? It does seem like a weird idea. But think about it. Close your eyes and envision a gallery like the Thornton with old style paintings of Albertosaurus, Smilodon, Brachiosaurus, and others. Wander over to the edge and gaze upon bronze statues of Amebelodon and Pachyrhinosaurus atop alabaster pedestals. Wouldn’t that be a unique and interesting exhibit? Would it not add a splash of life and culture to the usual bones and skeletons? I think so. If I ever erect that museum, I may try to include such a gallery, stocked with some of the finest paleo portraits out there. Who knows, I may even commission a few pieces for it. But for now, it remains a dream, a fleeting specter occupying a tiny corner of the vast marketplace of ideas.

Till next time.

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7 thoughts on “A Paleo Art Gallery?

  1. Interesting idea, Doug!

    My only suggestion would be to fill the gallery with an appreicably large number of plants, as this would force the viewer to remember that these were actual animals rather than some bizarre examples of artistic license.

    • Duly noted. But considering I’m not much of an art person, I’m just rambling at this point. I mean, assuming i could construct such a place, I’d probably hire an artistic consultant (or maybe at least my friend. She’s a real art type).

  2. I would love to see a Paleo Art Gallery. I like the suggestion of adding plants- maybe ferns? It might also be cool if it was a traveling exhibit. If it was, maybe it would stop in Cleveland?

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