Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time Hardcover – March 1, 2012
Inspire a love of reading with Prime Book Box for Kids
Discover delightful children's books with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers new books every 1, 2, or 3 months — new customers receive 15% off your first box. Learn more.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
About the Author
Richard Milner’s award-winning books include The Encyclopedia of Evolution (1990), Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z (2009), and The Last Human (2007). A longtime editor of Natural History magazine, he is a frequent contributor to top science journals, and has appeared on the History Channel, Animal Planet, Nova, BBC Two, and the Discovery Channel. Rhoda Knight Kalt contributes a warm introduction about her beloved grandfather.
- Grade Level : Preschool and up
- Hardcover : 180 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0810984792
- Item Weight : 2.6 pounds
- ISBN-13 : 978-0810984790
- Product Dimensions : 11 x 0.75 x 10 inches
- Publisher : Harry N. Abrams; First Edition (March 1, 2012)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,424,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I reviewed Charles R. Knight's partial autobiography “Charles R. Knight: Autobiography of an Artist” for the NJ Paleontograph. The autobiographical material was written by Knight sometime during World War II. However, he lost interest in the project before covering his life after the turn of the 20th Century, when most of his best work was done. I wrote at the time that I wish someone would write Knight's definitive biography. I also hoped for some explanations about the techniques he used to reconstruct extinct animals and make them look so convincing that we still think that’s the way they should look. A new book by Richard Milner "Charles R. Knight. The Artist Who Saw Through Time" is not that biography, but it is a good summary of Knight's artistic work, and does have a short biography as the first chapter. It also has some interesting tidbits about artistic techniques.
Richard Milner is a historian of science and an editor of Natural History magazine. He is probably more famous as a writer and performer of humorous songs about Charles Darwin. For examples, check out [...]
CRKTAWSTT is basically a picture book with explanations. It is divided into about 40 "special topics", in no particular order, for example "It's All Happening at the Zoo", "The Tiger", "Henry Fairfield Osborn", "La Brea Tarpits", "Ice Age", etc. Each topic may take up several pages. Photographs, paintings and sketches take up most of the space, with the remainder being captions and sidebars. There is a foreword by Knight's granddaughter Rhoda Knight Kalt. Obviously, I cannot cover all topics adequately. I will just mention some things that seemed new to me.
At a basic level, Knight specialized in painting and sculpting animals, and not all the work was on extinct animals. The current book does a good job of covering Knight's non-paleontological work, which is not as well known. You may know the sculpted elephant and rhino heads done by Knight decorating the old Elephant House at the Bronx Zoo, plus the zebra at the Zebra House. The life-size tiger in alert repose in Palmer Square, Princeton is also by Knight. He is responsible for the bison drawings on the 30cent stamp (1923) and the $10 bill (1901).
Knight is mostly associated with the American Museum of Natural History. He first made friends with the taxidermists working there and did his first painting of an extinct animal (Elotherium) at AMNH in 1894. Henry Fairfield Osborn soon took over the senior position in the Department of Paleontology, whereupon he implemented the idea of mounting the skeletons of prehistoric animals in lifelike positions, something rarely done at the time. This, of course, took much artistic talent, which Knight, among others, provided. At the time, restoring lifelike appearance to extinct animals was somewhat frowned upon by the scientific community, since the available information was considered insufficient.
Some of the most interesting early artwork by Knight includes scientific mistakes.
Influential is the classic painting of Agathaumus from 1891, which was done under the instructions of Edward Drinker Cope. Agathaumus resembles a cross between Centrosaurus and Triceratops with a very spiky frill. As better specimens of Triceratops became available, it was realized that Agathaumus was a mistake, but one can see Agathaumus decades later in the 1925 version of The Lost World. There is also the sculpture and painting of Naosaurus (1907) which we can recognize as a chimera of two sail-backed Permian reptiles from Texas, Dimetrodon (a carnivore) and Edaphosaurus (a herbivore).
Whatever Knight's association with AMNH, we must remember, though that he did extensive mural work for the Chicago Field Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum. Some of the most iconic paintings (e.g. Triceratops confronting Tyrannosaurus) are at the Field Museum, and most of the Pleistocene-related art is in Los Angeles. Osborn repeatedly offered Knight a permanent position at the AMNH. Apparently, however, Knight preferred being a free-lance artist (he felt it resulted in less interference) and repeatedly turned down these offers, although that resulted in some tough economic circumstances at some periods in his life.
I was aware that Knight was legally blind for most of his life and had to paint with his eyes a few inches from the canvas. This left me wondering how he was able to complete large murals. This book has the answer: assistants transferred his small scale paintings to the mural and did most of the painting. Knight would later add details.
I normally don't think of Knight as painting humans, and specifically I could not recall any paintings of Neanderthals. However, a number of such paintings are in this book. They are depicted by Knight as a little more stooped and hairy than they usually are today, with somewhat exaggerated facial features. However, Neanderthals are almost always portrayed in a sympathetic way, resourcefully surviving in a very unfriendly world.
One aspect I knew nothing about is Knight as an art critic. Unfortunately for him, he grew up at a time when Modern Art was in ascendency, and naturalistic painting (especially of animals) was not much in demand in the mainstream. He felt strongly negative about Modern Art, calling it a fad and a commercial scam. One interesting note is that he identified the skull in the Georgia O'Keefe's painting "Ram's Head" as that of a goat, not a ram.
Finally, I did not realize that Knight dreamed of a Dinoland Park, filled with life-size dinosaur sculptures, presumably to be built in Florida. He made plans with Louis Paul Jonas, also a former employee of AMNH, but died before these plans could come to fruition. Jonas later collaborated with scientific advisors Barnum Brown and John Ostrom to create dinosaur sculptures from polyester resin, and these are the sculptures that made it to Sinclair Dinoland at the NY World's Fair 1964-1965. One of the high points of my childhood.
This book is a must-have for all you fans of paleoart and historians of science.