Photo Gallery: Dinosaurs by Charles R. Knight

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Charles R. Knight (1874-1953) was one of the first American painters to depict dinosaurs, providing imaginative and largely scientifically based renditions of the extinct beasts in real-world settings. His realistic renderings were referred to as restorations. During a time when dinosaurs were capturing the fascination of people across the country, Knight's ground-breaking images combined paleontology and artistry to create some of the most popular museum displays of his day. Though somewhat speculative and not entirely based on solid evidence, Knight's paintings put flesh on creatures no one had ever seen, and he helped shape the image of dinosaurs that lives in public consciousness to this day.

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The Eohippus (or Dawn Horse) was about a foot tall and two feet long. Charles Knight's restoration of this creature appeared in National Geographic in 1916. He was a frequent contributor to the magazine.

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With this painting, Knight became one of the first painters to depict dinosaurs as fast, aggressive animals. The Dryptosaurus was 20 feet long, taller than a person, and weighed over 2,000 pounds. It had eight-inch eagle-like talons at the end of each toe.

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Knight's process began at the zoo, where he spent hours sketching the animals and learning their movements.

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In the studio, Knight created more detailed drawings from memory -- he did not paint from photographs. In this sketch, Knight shows the animal's muscle structure underneath its skin.

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Knight would then base the animal's outside appearance on its bone structure and musculature.

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To create an image of a dinosaur, Knight also started with the bone structure. Here, a sketch of a Stegosaurus skeleton.

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To create an image of a dinosaur, Knight also started with the bone structure. Here, a sculpture of a Stegosaurus skeleton.

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While Knight took artistic license with some dinosaurs' appearances, his paintings became the basis for many peoples' notions of what the creatures looked like.

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The first step was to sketch the dinosaurs' bones in the position Knight ultimately wanted to portray.

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Knight would then sketch the creatures with muscles and skin, experimenting with slightly altered positioning.

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The final product -- this one showing an Allosaurus eating the meat of a Brontosaurus -- is a full-color painting, even depicting Knight's conception of the dinosaur's skin.

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One of the largest land mammals of their time, the Uintatheriidae had a unique bone structure, particularly on their skull. To help depict the body, Knight may have observed modern elephants, where one can note similarities in the backbone and feet.

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Knight's painting of the Trachodon was a little more vague. Very little is still known about the so-called "duck-billed dinosaur."

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Legally blind since childhood, Knight had to be very close to the canvas to see the details of his paintings.

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Here, Knight has painted an apatosaurus (also known as a brontosaurus), which is one of the largest dinosaurs, measuring over 23 feet long and weighing 25 tons.

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Knight was also known for his colorful paintings of contemporary animals, such as The Bengal Tiger with Peacock.

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Over the course of his career, Knight painted murals still in existence today on museum walls depicting scenes in natural history.

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Tyrannosaurus, 1940. Knight wrote and illustrated several books in the 1940s.

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Knight did not like to paint alone. Instead, he preferred a large crowd and a party atmosphere in his studio. He died in 1953 at the age of 78.

|Rhoda Knight Kalt

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