Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sketchbook of the Dinosaur Builder

Sketch of intended Museum Wall marked 'New York City'

Design for a Museum - perhaps the Smithsonian

Paleozoic museum exhibit ~1876

St. George and the pterodactyl
"The dual date of 1873/1868 indicates that it originated as a design for the Palaeozoic Museum and was reworked for some unidentified project that Hawkins undertook between his Smithsonian and Princeton contracts. The background is the columnar basalt of Fingal's Cave, Staffa; the toothed pterosaur is evidently intended to be Ornithocheirus."

Key to ancestral names in the physiographical
illustration of Darwin's descent of man

"An ingenious and labored anti-Darwinian exercise inspired by The Descent of Man of the same date (1871); also a bit of a temperance tract...A dozen primates are shown...Homo sapiens in the center holds a wine bottle aloft, as he dances arm in arm with a bear holding a bunch of grapes."
[I tried to reduce some of the background stains - original]

On New Years Eve 1853 a dinner was hosted by Hawkins and Sir Richard Owen to celebrate Hawkin's acceptance into the Royal Geographic Society. The event was attended by 21 men and took place at Crystal Palace inside the mould of Hawkins' Iguanadon.
[the invitation to the dinner] [very small image from the Illustrated London News]

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1889) was an English natural history artist, sculptor and zoological educator. He spent the 1840s constructing models of living animals and his work resulted in a commission from the Crystal Palace Company to produce replicas of extinct animals.

Collaborating with paleontologist Sir Richard Owen (who is credited with inventing the word dinosaur), Hawkins produced more than 30 life-sized iguanodons, megalosaurs, ichtyosaurs, megatheres and other creatures which were installed in the grounds of Crystal Palace in 1854. They were a sensational and popular attraction. [Hawkins had created the first ever dinosaur model for the Worlds Fair in London, 3 years before].

Hawkins later went to the United States where he received a commission to produce replica dinosaurs from American fossils and spent some years sidestepping the fomenting political scandals of New York City to construct models. The intention was for a Paleozoic museum to be erected in Central Park. Political skullduggery won through however and the venture didn't get beyond construction of the foundations (which are still there under the ground somewhere I believe). Hawkins' models were ordered destroyed and his services terminated in 1871. It was essentially a budget decision but it's a convoluted story.

Hawkins kept a scrapbook during the 1870s and it includes pencil sketches, photographs, illustrations and clippings - some collected in previous years.

1 comment :

boris said...
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