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?