Monday, 7 April 2014

Palaeoartworks: a palaeoart gallery at Lyme Regis, April 7th - May 4th

As folks who follow me on Facebook and Twitter will have gathered, recent weeks have been spent not-so-secretly gearing up for my very own palaeoart gallery in the UK's spiritual home of palaeontology, Lyme Regis. Today, we're finally ready to go public: Palaeoartworks, as it's ended up being known, is now open.

Panoramic view of Palaeoartworks in near entirety. Image courtesy Georgia Maclean-Henry.
Palaeoartworks can be found in the Town Mill Malthouse, part of the Town Mill complex in the heart of Lyme Regis (map) and, from today (April 7th), is open every day until May 4th (including the Easter holidays). Admission is free, from 10.30am to 4.30pm daily.

The gallery is part of the famous Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, an annual event celebrating palaeontology and natural history with fossil stalls, outreach events, and public lectures by leading palaeontologists. The festival, now in its 9th year, will be running across the Early May Bank Holiday (Friday - Sunday, 3rd-4th May). I'll be present at the gallery for its final weekend, and it would be great to meet some readers if you find yourself in Lyme Regis for the festival. There may even - for the first time ever - be prints available to buy.

So, what can you expect from the gallery? Hopefully, there's a wide enough range of restorations to keep most tastes happy: dinosaurs, pterosaurs, Crocodyliformes, invertebrates, marine reptiles, even some fish. These are organised into are three collections. The first is dedicated to palaeoart of the Wealden Supergroup, a sequence of Lower Cretaceous sediments found throughout south-east England with an intensely studied palaeobiota and palaeoenvironment. Regular readers will know that I've been publishing a lot of Wealden artwork recently - enough, it seems, to fill the wall of a gallery - and my favourites are now on display.

Ever see a man make a gallery out of Wealden palaeoart? Yes, once.
The second set comprises - big surprise here - pterosaurs, the Mesozoic flying reptiles which need no introduction to anyone reading this (but if you need an introduction, consider this). A lot of the pterosaur imagery is reproduced from my book, but there's also some rarely seen or entirely new stuff here too. Efforts were made to show pterosaurs at their most diverse and interesting: you'll see them swimming, climbing, assaulting little dinosaurs, imitating famous film posters, and all sorts of stuff.

Partial shot of the 'Pterosaur' collection. There's a lot more to see in the gallery itself.
The last collection doesn't really have a theme, instead just being a suite of pieces I especially like: mating tyrannosaurs, fuzzy pachyrhinosaurs, noir-inspired palaeoart and so on. This section also features a video of art for which there was no space, including several brand new pieces and modified versions of older artwork. All of the art in the collection was produced in the last three years.

Miscellaneous palaeoart things: paintings, a discussion of ammonite palaeoart, and a scrolling movie of artwork. 
If pictures say 1000 words, there's at least 40,000 words on display at my Palaeoartworks. That, however, wasn't quite verbose enough for me, so you'll also find general introductions to the principle art subjects and several 'Palaeoart Case Studies': plinths showcasing fossil specimens behind select reconstructions and some explanation of how palaeoartists use these in their work. There's six of these in total, detailing the different approaches palaeoartists can take to fossil reconstruction, how sometimes we have to look beyond fossils of one particular species to obtain data, and how confident we can be about the resultant restorations. I'll share some of these brief bits of text online over the next few weeks.

So that's Palaeoartworks, then. Coming off the back of a post where the status of the palaeoart industry was not shown in a particularly good light (head here for the full article), it's nice to be writing about an event which pushes palaeoart to the fore. We need more events like this. Overall, I'm really happy with the gallery and hope you enjoy it too - remember to sign my guest book so I know you've visited!

A few acknowledgements

Naturally, there are a lot of people to thank here. Hats off to Kimberly Clarke for inviting my work down to Lyme Regis and organising the gallery space; Philip Clayton for helping organise and install the gallery; University of Portsmouth for sponsoring my printing costs and supplying in-house printing services; Gary Blackwell of Dinosaur Isle and Steve Sweetman for supplying a cast of Koumpiodontosuchus. A huge thanks to palaeoartist and Maximum cassowary-wrangler Gareth 'GaffaMondo' Monger, who provided top-quality printing and framing under tight deadlines (is there any other type?) - Granthams prints come highly recommended. Southsea Gallery virtually saved the show at the last moment. Finally, as usual, thanks to Georgia Maclean-Henry for help and support throughout the entire organisation and installation process. It's totally her fault if the pictures are wonky, though.


  1. I certainly had fun trying to identify the artworks in the full panoramic without looking at the zoomed in pictures below :).


    1. Did you succeed? Most should be familiar to regular visitors, but what's the fourth animal in the giraffe/Arambourgiania/Disacknowledgement image?

    2. The ones immediately at either edge where easy, as was the Baryonyx, Pelorosaurus, Icthyosaur, Ammonite, Pachyrhinosaurus, Night Hunt (Darkness), and T. rex mating images (In that order.). Most of the pterosaurs where to far way to tell.

      I can't tell, looks vaguely like the Ankylosaur on the hill... looks somewhat like one of your Tupuxuarid (Which is correct? I used this name because I can actually spell it without reference.) images...


    3. Re:the giraffe/Arambourgiania/Disacknowledgement image - I'd go out on a limb and say that the fourth pterosaur would be Hatzegopteryx, or some other kind of short-necked giant azhdarchid.