Sunday, May 01, 2005

Field Museum Cleans Charles R. Knight Murals

From the Chicago Tribune article by William Mullen:

Realizing that sunlight coming through gallery windows was damaging the Field Museum's renowned collection of dinosaur fossils, curators hit upon what was, for 1926, an extravagantly expensive solution.

They spent $140,000 to commission the world's greatest painter of extinct, prehistoric animal life to create a series of huge murals of dinosaurs that would cover the exhibit hall windows and block the light.

Photo by Phil Velasquez, © 2005 Chicago Tribune

Today, dinosaur cognoscenti say, the Field's 28 murals by New York artist Charles R. Knight may be as famous and valuable as any fossil in the museum's collection, including Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex, acquired for $8.36 million in 1997.

From the time the paintings were hung in 1931, many of them have been recognizable around the world. Photos of them have been printed in science textbooks and periodicals, helping inspire some paleontologists to enter the field.

Next March, the museum plans to open "Evolving Planet," an expanded, 27,000-square-foot display on the history of life on Earth that will feature state-of-the-art, razzle-dazzle, computer-based exhibit tools.

But Knight's elegant and surprisingly accurate murals will be there, too. An art-restoration firm has spent nine months cleaning and repairing the artwork, and the project is nearly done.

After 70 years, Knight's interpretations "of how animals looked and moved aren't always perfect, but to an amazing degree, given all the new knowledge we have gleaned about dinosaurs since then, his paintings hold up extremely well," said William Simpson, the museum's fossil vertebrates collections manager.

The murals--some 25 feet long by 9 feet high, others 11 feet by 9 feet--depict dinosaur life as it evolved from its beginning 225 million years ago to extinction 65 million years ago.
Read the rest of the article HERE.

Thanks to the ever fascinating Digital Dream Machine blog for the head's up on this item!