(1874 - 1953)
Charles Robert Knight was active/lived in New York. Charles Knight is known for animals in landscape painting-dinosaurs, sculpture.
Charles was an American artist best known for his influential paintings
of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. His works have been
reproduced in many books and exhibited at major museums in the United
As a child, Knight was deeply interested in nature and animals, and
spent many hours copying the illustrations from his father's natural
history books. Though legally blind because of astigmatism and a
subsequent injury to his right eye, Knight pursued his artistic
talents with the help of specially-designed glasses, and at the age of
twelve, he enrolled at the Metropolitan Art School to become a
commercial artist. In 1890, he was hired by a church-decorating
firm to design stained-glass windows, and after two years with them,
became a freelance illustrator for books and magazines, specializing in nature scenes.
In his free time, Knight visited the American Museum of Natural
History, attracting the attention of Dr. Jacob Wortman, who asked
Knight to paint a restoration of a prehistoric pig whose fossilized
bones were on display. Though many artists at the time were reluctant
to make such restorations, given the amount of guesswork involved,
Knight applied his knowledge of modern pig anatomy to make the painting
as realistic as possible, and used his imagination
to fill in any gaps. Wortman was thrilled with the final result, and
the museum soon commissioned Knight to produce an entire series of
watercolors for their fossil halls. These paintings were hugely popular
visitors, and Knight continued to work with the museum well until the
1930s, painting what would become some of the world's most celebrated
images of dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, and prehistoric humans.
Soon, natural history museums throughout the country began
requesting Knight paintings for their own fossil exhibits including the
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. In 1926,Knight
began a 28 mural series for Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History,
a project which chronicled the history of life on earth and took four
years to complete. At the Field Museum, he produced one of his
best-known pieces, a mural featuringTyrannosaurus and
Triceratops. This confrontation scene between a predator and its
would inspire a huge number of imitations, establishing the two
dinosaurs as "mortal enemies" in the popular consciousness. The Field
Museum's Alexander Sherman says, "It is so well-loved that it has
become the standard encounter for portraying the age of dinosaurs" (1)
Other museums that have work by Knight are the Carnegie Museum in
Pittsburgh, the Smithsonian, Peabody Museum of Natural History, the
Bronz, Lincoln and Brookfield Zoos. Knight was actually the only person
in America allowed to paint Su Lin, a giant panda that lived at Brookfield Zoo during the 1930s .
While making murals for museums and zoos, Knight continued
illustrating books and magazines, and became a frequent contributor to National Geographic. He also wrote and illustrated several books of his own, such as Before the Dawn of History (Knight, 1935), Life Through the Ages (1946), Animal Drawing: Anatomy and Action for Artists (1947), and Prehistoric Man: The Great Adventure (1949). Additionally, Knight became a popular lecturer, describing prehistoric life to audiences across the country.
In 1951, after retirement from museums, he painted his last work, a mural for
the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Two years later, he died in Manhattan.
Because Knight worked in an era when new and often fragmentary
fossils were coming out of the American west in quantity, not all of
his creations were based on solid evidence; dinosaurs such as his
improbably-adorned Agathaumas (1897: left) for example, were somewhat
speculative. His depictions of better-known ceratopsians
as solitary animals inhabiting lush grassy landscapes were largely
imaginative (the grasslands that feature in many of his paintings
didn't appear until the Cenozoic and Ceratopsians are known to have
been gregarious animals). Although
Knight sometimes made musculoskeletal studies of living animals, he did
not do so for his dinosaur restorations, and he restored many dinosaurs
with typical reptilian-like limbs and narrow hips (Paul, 1996).
An homage to the painter was made in the IMAX feature film,T-Rex:
Back to the Cretaceous, in which he was portrayed by actor Tuck
Footnote: 1) Alexander Sherman, "Charles Knight: Prehistoric Visions of a Beloved Muralist", In the Field,
2002 Field Museum
A painter and sculptor of animals, birds and fossils, and also a
lithographer, WPA muralist, art writer, distinguished paleontologist and lecturer on prehistoric
man and animals, Charles Robert Knight was based in New York
City. He studied at the Art Students League where he was a
student of George deForest Brush and Frank Vincent DuMond. He
also studied at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.
Exhibition venues include the Art Institute of Chicago, 1907, 1916;
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts annual, 1908, 1922; Corcoran
Gallery of Art, 1908; and Salons of America, 1928
Among his writings were "Prehistoric Life" for National Geographic Magazine,1940 and books titled Before the Dawn of History,1935; and Life Through the Ages, 1946.
His work is exhibited at the National Museum of Natural History and the
National Zoological Park. The papers of the artist are in the
Smithsonian Institution Archives, having been donated by his grand
daughter, Rhoda Knight Kalt.
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art