augusta coverPrehistoric Animals, circa 1950's
By Josef Augusta

The book above, and the others that follow below, were illustrated by Zdeněk Burian (1905-1981).  Burian was a Czecho-
slovakian artist who produced an incredible body of paleoart that rivaled Charles R. Knight in terms of skill and aesthetics. 
Burian illustrated numerous books on prehistoric animals (and several fiction books) that were published in his native
Czechoslovakia. During the mid- to late-1950's and into the 1960's, Burian collaborated with Czech paleontologist Josef
Augusta in preparing a series of lavishly illustrated large format books that contained beautiful examples of the artist's work.  
These books were also translated in english and published in England.  Prehistoric Animals was the first of these
books and it was published in 1956.1  Other books that followed are Prehistoric Man (1960), Prehistoric Reptiles and Birds
(1961), The Book of Mammoths (1962), Prehistoric Sea Monsters (1964)--see below, and The Age of Monsters (1966)--see
below.

In 1972 Burian collaborated with Zdeněk V. Spinar to produce Life Before Man (the cover below is from a revised
paperback edition published in 1995).  This volume contains a selection of Burian's paleoart from his previous
collaborations with Augusta, and is supplemented by some newer restorations.  Note that Burian included a new and more
correct land-dwelling version of Brachiosaurus, rather than the water-dwelling version that appeared in the Augusta-Burian
Prehistoric Animals.


In 2005 a book was published, Zdeněk Burian (see below), that showcases various genres of Burian's artwork.  The
book includes paintings and drawings of scenes from the American west (e.g., Indians, cowboys, horses, etc.), ships at
sea, portraits, nudes, as well as a selection of Burian's paleoart.  Indeed, it seems that there are several restorations of
prehistoric animals included in this book that do not appear in other "Burian" books.  It is interesting to see how Burian's
prehistoric animal paintings from the late 1970's and early 1980's often do not have the same artistic quality as his earlier
restorations.  Unfortunately, this book is written in Czech, but if you enjoy Burian's artwork, you must get a copy of this
book.

As noted in Debus and Debus, paleoartist Gregory S. Paul has been unfairly critical of Burian's work.  In one publication
Paul notes that Burian's "dinosaur forms were more impressionistic than accurate."2  (I would argue that Burian's paleoart
tended towards realism rather than impressionism.) In another book, Paul criticizes a well-known Burian's restoration--that
of a Tyrannosaurus chasing a pair of Trachodons (Anatosauruses).  Paul states that "Burian's often-reproduced T. rex has
a badly dwarfed head and lipless teeth--it is not good at all."3 Debus and Debus, however, include a quote from Burian
admirer John Lavas that states: "Gregory S. Paul says the T. rex head of  the 1938 depiction is too small, yet if you measure
the drawing, it is about right." 

"[I]t is not good at all"?  Is G. S. Paul serious?  If Burian's T. rex is not good, then that means that most of Charles R. Knight's
dinsoaurs are not good either!

diplo

Diplodocus scanned from Prehistoric Animals

augusta-monsters

The Age of Monsters focuses on prehistoric mammals and large prehistoric flightless birds.  Burian's
paintings of a variety of prehistoric proboscidians are incredible.

augusta-sea

This book focuses primarily on plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, etc.

spinar

This book is a nice representation of Burian's restorations of prehistoric animals.



burian  burian-krono

The painting of the Kronosaurus on the right (included in the book Zdeněk Burian) was painted in 1981, the year of Burian's death.

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The book does not contain a publication date.  Debus and Debus and Colbert (Dinosaurs: Their Discovery
and Their World,
1961) lists it as 1956,  Nicholas Hotton (Dinosaurs, 1963) lists it as 1958, and Donald F.
Glut (The New Dinosaur Dictionary, 1982) lists it as 1960. 
2 Gregory S. Paul, "A Quick History of Dinosaur Art," in The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs, 2000.
3 Gregory S. Paul, Predatory Dinosaurs of the World: A Complete Illustrated Guide, 1988.

Index