New Painting: The Paleontologist's Dream

The Paleontologist's Dream, 12 x 24 in., Oil on Panel, 2016

When most people think about what a dinosaur dig looks like their minds head immediately to the first scene of Jurassic Park. Grant and Ellie, played by Sam Neill and Laura Dern, hover and muse above the skeleton of a velociraptor. The animal is complete with Its bones laid out in perfect articulation in a clean, legible dig site. This situation is excessively rare. Of the handful of T-Rex skeletons ever found only five have more than 50% of their bones. Any "complete" specimen is a significant find as we're usually looking at fragments of broken bones. The millennia spent in the ground warps and smashes them together creating a confusing mixture that can take paleontologists years to sort through.

Detail of the lower right

My picture presents the vertebrate paleontologist's dream; two complete dinosaurs (Triceratops, left, and a T-rex, right) laying side by side in a quarry beneath a vivid Montana sunset. The vertebrate paleontologist and the oil painter have much in common, both are chasing that perfect thing; the masterpiece. We both want that discovery which is so significant that is carves your name into the history of things. What more could one ask than to stumble upon this scene and return to your museum victorious with one of the most exquisite specimens ever coughed up by the natural world?

The painting's title, The Paleontologist's Dream, is a reference to the 1840 Thomas Cole painting, The Architect's Dream.

Diagram showing the two 12in squares side by side

This type of painting is called a double square because it is formed by placing two perfect squares side by side. Double squares were first used by the Barbazon painters in 19th century France. A series of technological advancements (oil paint in tubes) allowed these artists to be amongst the first to paint outside in the woods around the city of Fontainebleau. The proportions of the double square lent themselves particularly well to painting small, portable, landscapes. The format didn't became famous, however, until it was employed by Vincent van Gogh at the asylum in Auvers at the end of his life. During this time he painted the most famous double square ever made, The Wheatfield with Crows.

Obviously, I'm a big fan of this artistic tradition. This new one may be the nicest one I've ever done, though I do very much like the Tall Column. Below are links to some of my other double squares, all landscapes.

Dawn at Kiringaal

Long Telescope

Tall Column

Wildfire Moran

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