Dinomakers

Two centuries of depicting prehistoric times, a new exhibition of paleo art

Jan 31, 2020 to Jun 01, 2020

On 31 January 2020 a new family exhibition opens at Teylers Museum. Dinomakers will take those familiar images of prehistoric times and turn them upside down.

It’s a regular feature of each successive generation of children: a fascination with the world of dinosaurs. Yet our picture of these extinct creatures has changed quite a bit over the years. From dinos with scales to dinos with feathers. From sluggish, lumbering creatures to fast-moving runners. And that peculiar protrusion that was initially depicted on the nose of the Iguanodon turned out to be its thumb. Dinomakers provides a survey of two centuries of paleo art: the exciting, surprising, and sometimes controversial images of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life forms by artists and scientists. Fossils, paintings, drawings, magic lantern pictures, short films, and models: marvel at the fantastic imagination of these ‘dino makers’ and see how their creations have constantly changed. Dinomakers will be on view from 31 January to 1 June 2020.

Ode to the imagination

A fragment of bone or a molar, or sometimes just the contours of an ancient footprint in the mud: fossils like these, millions of years old, are the only tangible evidence we have of prehistoric times. From these fossilised remains, artists and scientists have built up the lively pictures that have become embedded in our collective memory through the medium of books, museums, and films: a mammoth in the snow on that old poster that once hung on the classroom wall; the heavy brow ridge of a Neanderthal skull in that book about prehistoric times; the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex and the amiable long-necked Brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park. Paleo art is a curious combination of evidence in the form of fossils, painstaking research, artistic techniques, and huge leaps of imagination.

Dinomakers at Teylers Museum

Dinomakers is the first exhibition on paleo art in the Netherlands. This subject, lying as it does at the interface of nature, art, and culture, is a superb fit for Teylers Museum, the museum of art and science. Remarkable material from the Netherlands and elsewhere has been gathered here for this show. The loans come from institutions such as the Natural History Museum in London, the Moravian Museum in Brno and Museon in The Hague as well as from private collectors. Work by contemporary artists will also be on show: drawings and models by the well-known Dutch paleo artists Kennis & Kennis and digital images by the British artist Mark Witton. They respond to topical developments in paleontology, depicting enigmatic creatures or early humanoids in non-traditional poses: a T-Rex caring for its young, and a Neanderthal figure shown – rather than hunting mammoths in the usual way – flaunting a whimsical hairstyle.

Children and the future

The exhibition also looks at the fascination that dinosaurs continue to hold for today’s generation of children. In short videos, young dino specialists talk about their favourite dinosaur and give their own take on prehistoric times. Children can follow an adventurous journey around the exhibition with a number of creative interactive tasks. They will be challenged to think about the forms of life that will be extinct in the future. The exhibition forges a link with today’s world by looking at the constant changes in the animal and plant species on earth under the influence of climate change. Dinomakers was created in collaboration with the guest curator Esther van Gelder.

Illustration: Mark Witton, Europasaurus holgeri (2017)