Prehistoric Animals, circa
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,
collaborated with Czech paleontologist Josef
Augusta in preparing a series of lavishly illustrated large format
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
(1961), The Book of
Mammoths (1962), Prehistoric
(1964)--see below, and The Age of
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
In 2005 a book was published, Zdeněk
Burian (see below), that showcases various genres of Burian's
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
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
(Anatosauruses). Paul states that "Burian's often-reproduced T.
a badly dwarfed head and lipless teeth--it is not good at all."3
Debus and Debus, however, include a quote from
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
"[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.
dinsoaurs are not good either!
Diplodocus scanned from Prehistoric
The Age of Monsters focuses on prehistoric mammals and large
prehistoric flightless birds. Burian's
paintings of a variety of prehistoric proboscidians are incredible.
This book focuses primarily on plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs,
This book is a nice representation of Burian's restorations of
The painting of the Kronosaurus on the right (included in the book Zdeněk Burian) was painted in 1981,
the year of Burian's death.
1 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
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.