Dinotopia: The Fantastical
Art of James Gurney
February 6, 2010 - May 16, 2010
Wall text from the exhibition
- James Gurney
- James Gurney's Dinotopia books bring to life the world
of science and the realm of the imagination. Inspired by his interest in
archaeology, lost civilizations, and the art of illustration, Gurney relates
the tale of explorer Arthur Denison and his young son Will, who sail from
Boston in 1862 on a voyage of discovery. When their schooner is shipwrecked,
all on board are lost but the father and son. Washed ashore on the unknown
island of Dinotopia, they find a world where, to their amazement, dinosaurs
and humans live together in -- for the most part-peaceful harmony and interdependence.
Completing the imaginary circle, James Gurney himself -- he tells us-has
unearthed Arthur Denison's long-lost journals.
- The artist invites us to experience the far reaches of
this mysterious destination. He has immersed himself in every detail of
Dinotopia, from maps to mechanics to metaphysics. He gives the dinosaurs
physical appearances that are consistent with current scientific research
and endows them with personalities of his own design.
- The young James Gurney loved the imagery of America's
historic illustrators, such as Howard Pyle (1853-1911). A childhood museum
visit inspired Gurney's appreciation of the prehistoric. After his studies
in art and anthropology, Gurney painted naturalistic jungle and volcano
backdrops for motion pictures, and mastered fantasy and science-fiction
illustration. On assignments for National Geographic, he worked
with scientists and historians to recreate and depict long-ago worlds.
In his Dinotopia series, he has followed Howard Pyle's advice to step into
the picture and fully imagine the scene portrayed, conjuring up a fantastical
world while presenting an often witty perspective on our own.
- DINOSAUR ILLUSTRATION
- The name Dinotopia is a combination of dinosaur
and utopia, two words of Greek etymology. Dinosaur -- in common use since
the early 1840s -- means terrible lizard, and utopia has come to
mean perfect place. For centuries, literary artists in the Western
European tradition have imagined their own versions of a utopia. As a visual
artist, James Gurney participates in a 150-year history of dinosaur illustration.
The dinosaur as an object of popular culture began with the rather monster-like
sculptures of 15 types of extinct creatures at London's Crystal Palace
Park in 1854.The lumbering giant sculptures by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins
reflected vigorous paleontological debates and increased public understanding
of the dinosaurs' role in pre-history. This imagery persisted in Charles
Knight's murals of the 1920s in various American natural history museums,
and Rudolph Zallinger's murals at the Peabody Museum at Yale University
- In the 1960s, illustrators began to reflect new paleontological
evidence that dinosaurs may have been active and warm-blooded animals,
rather than cold-blooded and sluggish, and may have engaged in herding
and nesting behavior. Depictions of dinosaurs changed from lizard-like
to being more mammalian and bird-like, in active poses and various behaviors.
The 1993 science-fiction film version of Michael Crichton's Jurassic
Park was perhaps the most significant event in raising public awareness
of contemporary dinosaur science.
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