Scientist of the Day - Rudolph Zallinger
Rudolph Zallinger, an American artist, was born Nov. 12, 1919. Between 1943 and 1947, Zallinger painted an immense mural on the front wall of the Peabody Museum at Yale University (see first image above). The mural is usually called The Age of Reptiles, and it depicts the rise and fall of the dinosaurs. It occupies a space that is some 110 feet long, and it was painted in fresco secco, which is to say, on freshly dried plaster. Zallinger was an art graduate student at Yale at the time, the pupil of one of the last remaining fresco masters. We can see him at work in two of the photos above. The painting is quite glorious in its color and layout, although it shows dinosaurs as slow-moving and somewhat unintelligent, a view now rejected by paleontologists. But it is still the most splendid paleontological painting you are ever likely to see. We see a detail of the Brontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus above (fourth image).
The Age of Reptiles was reproduced as a long foldout in Life Magazine in 1953, which was viewed by millions; the painting was reversed for the fold-out, so that it reads from left to right, and a detail of the reversed Brontosaurus and Stegosaurus was used for the cover (fifth image). Many living dinosaur specialists claim that it was this mural, either in its original form or in the Life version, that directed them to their life's work. We displayed the Life version of Zallinger’s painting in our 1996 exhibition, Paper Dinosaurs.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.