Monday, January 3, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Mort Künstler

New year, new day for the Vintage Dinosaur Art posts. Fridays were just too crowded for both Mesozoic Miscellany and Vintage Dinosaur Art, so the higher-ups here decided a schedule change was in order. From here on out, you can expect a pipin' hot batch of dinosaur illustrations from days gone by on Mondays. Mark your calendars accordingly.

The first subject of 2011 is Mort Künstler, who provided his talents for the 1974 title Dinosaur Story, written by Joanna Cole. Originally published by Morrow in 1974, it was reprinted in 1983 by Scholastic. Its format is pretty conventional, ignoring the Triassic, stopping off at the Morrison formation for a taste of the Jurassic, finally visiting with...

Wait for it...

Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, a brash decision that won't sit well with many. But I respect maverickiness, so you won't hear jeers from these quarters.

Dinosaur Story Book Cover

One of Mort Künstler's website identifies him as "America's Artist," due to the fact that he has focused on American history for much of his career. His current favorite subject matter is the Civil War, and some of this work can be seen currently in an exhibition at the Nassau Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, NY. Another site dedicated to him shares much of his print illustration work, and it is well worth a gander. He's a master.

It's only fitting that a man so enamored with American history and so adept at illustrating within its pop culture would at some point visit the Mesozoic. Dinosaurs are creatures of the imagination who are interwoven through American history, from the robber baron exploits of O.C. Marsh to their prominence in film to their use by Sinclair to market the very blood on which America runs.

This is probably one of the most accomplished artists I've shared in this series, which makes this title all the more baffling. For what I can only assume is a budgetary reason, most of Künstler's drawings have been covered in an ugly smudge of green.

Apatosaurus Herd

I have no idea why this would have been deemed a better option than letting the drawings stand on their own. I've been trying to find out if this is unique to the Scholastic version, but I haven't been able to find any interior images from the 1974 Morrow publication.

Protoceratops

Künstler's work is pretty good; it isn't often that humble Protoceratops gets treated with such nobility. I can't help but sense he was working with a tight deadline or low pay, though. Or both. I'd love to see him tackle the subject with the time and care he dedicates to his historical work. And it would be nice to see him deal with post-dinosaur renaissance ideas. Man-in-suit tyrannosaurs, anyone?

T. rex Tussle

Yeah, me neither. Ornitholestes gets some time, too. First, as a dastardly egg thief.

Ornitholestes

And then, yet another knockoff of the Charles R. Knight illustration of the small theropod.

Ornitholestes

Though Künstler is, as I said above, a master, I can't let this end without sharing this, which might be the single ugliest Triceratops illustration I've ever seen.

Triceratops

If Sloth from The Goonies and a Triceratops had a love child, this would be it. In this case, the green smudge sort of helps.

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