This is Charles R. Knight’s 1894 painting of Elotherium, an extinct animal that resembled a wild boar. That’s cool–but what I’m really interested in is the backdrop.
This reproduction, the only one I could find, doesn’t quite capture the dried-out yellowish tones of the banks of this gully. You’ll have to imagine that. The gully is full of water and the animals are crossing it. Farther up toward the horizon, the gully feeds into a more permanent stream. And then a river? Then the sea?
The thing is–I think I’ve been there! Years and years and years ago. You got there if you went all the way down Orchard Street, back when there was still an orchard there, well past all the houses, and then just park your bike where this little bridge went across the gully. You could easily climb down and wade in the water–which of course you wouldn’t do if there were Elotheriums present. They look irritable.
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Knight used real places as the backdrops for his paintings of prehistoric life. I wonder: did he wander into my childhood, or did I wander into one of his paintings?