Tag Archives: Elotherium

I Think I’ve Been There

Entelodon | Cool Dino Facts Wiki | Fandom

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?


Places that Never Were–Or Were They?

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Charles R. Knight, who died in 1953, became famous in his own lifetime as the world’s most convincing painter of prehistoric life. Among my early memories are trips to the American Museum of Natural History, and looking up at Knight’s great murals, my mind full of wild surmises for which I wasn’t old enough to find words.

I still love Knight’s work, but I’ve learned to appreciate another aspect of it–his background scenery. There are a lot of people who can paint or draw prehistoric animals. I can do that. But only a very few are able to bring us into the world those creatures lived in.

The painting above launched Knight’s career, when it was still the 19th century. The animal is Elotherium. Never mind that. The scenery which Elotherium inhabits–the longer I look at it, the realer it gets!

I could just about swear that Knight’s Elotheriums are in a real place. More than that–a place that I know. I used to play alongside a stream just like that, on Orchard Street, before they paved everything over. I climbed and skidded up and down those steep banks. I waded in that water, although it was too deep to wade all the way across. I was there. I didn’t see any Elotheriums, but I was there. If they’d come out of the woods on the other side, I’d’ve seen them.

And where would that stream take me, if I could follow it up to the top of the painting? What enchanted country would I discover?

What a gift the Lord Our God gave Charles Knight! God made us in His image, and some of us He made creators. We can only revel in it, and give thanks.

I think God knows where these places really are. He made them. Oh, for a glimpse, O Lord!

But who knows what He has in store for us?


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