The Artist Who Saw Through Time
Metanexus recently attended a party for Richard Milner’s new book Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time. Knight, who died in 1953, is famous for his elaborate depictions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. Born in Brooklyn, Knight was educated at the Polytechnic Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Students League before beginning a long career in the service of natural history. His mentor was Edward Drinker Cope, the curator of paleontology at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where many of his murals were exhibited.
Stephen Jay Gould wrote of Knight:
Not since the Lord himself showed his stuff to Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones had anyone shown such grace and skill in the reconstruction of animals from disarticulated skeletons. Charles R. Knight, the most celebrated of artists in the reanimation of fossils, painted all the canonical figures of dinosaurs that fire our fear and imagination to this day.
Milner’s book is a richly illustrated celebration of Knight’s life and work. It includes a new biography of the artist, who continued to paint even though he was legally blind. Knight’s art graced the exhibitions of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Bronx Zoo. Knight’s oeuvre includes not only long-vanished creatures but also a veritable catalogue of modern birds and beasts sketched from life. His scientifically accurate restorations, bringing dry fossil bones to life, inspired and influenced generations of scientists, artists, and filmmakers.