Dinotopia artist James Gurney on exhibit at New Hampshire Institute of Art

James Gurney's paintings, drawings, and incredible hand-made models from his Dinotopia books series are on exhibit this month at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

From the soothing, restorative environment of Waterfall City to the hidden wonders of Chandara, acclaimed author and illustrator James Gurney’s magical Dinotopian world comes to life in this enchanting exhibition that features 22 original paintings from the best-selling illustrated books Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time (1992), Dinotopia: The World Beneath (1995), and Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara (2007), and presents fascinating examples of the illustrator’s creative process, including reference materials, and a handmade scale-model.

Inspired by archaeology, lost civilizations, and the art of illustration, Gurney’s Dinotopia, an extraordinary place where humans and dinosaurs live in harmony, fuses fantasy with realism and scientific accuracy. “The thing I love about dinosaurs is that they are on that balance point between fantasy and reality,” says Gurney. “It might be hard to believe that mermaids and dragons really existed, but we know that dinosaurs did―we can see their footprints and skeletons but we can’t photograph them or see them, except in our imagination.”

Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney


    1. There is something similar to this at the Creation Museum – it’s Jesus Christ riding a pterodactyl – and Jesus is holding a copy of the new Bill O’Reilly book about Lincoln

  1. I have a friend who’s a top notch biologist and dinosaur “expert” and for a while in the early 90s he was hired on by a company called DINAMATION whose initial intent was to bring the realistic and scientifically-based world of dinosaurs to life via small museum exhibits and traveling educational shows…my friend tried to keep things real on the bio and structural side of DINAMATION’s 3-D, moving dinosaur animatronic creations, which could be seen in various US museums for a while

    After a couple of years, when the company figured out they weren’t making enough money, they asked my friend if it was historically accurate to place animatronic HUMANS next to the animatronic dinosaurs – “no, not really” – but they went ahead anyway and made animatronic people riding animatronic dinosaurs – a few months after that, DINAMATION was considering adding odd things like wizards and magicians and fantastical, theatrical sets to the dinosaur mix. By that point, my friend had resigned in disgust. He loved and studied dinosaurs all his life and here were mere businessmen twisting and warping the reality of dinosaurs to scrape some dollars together. These DINOTOPIA books are on the cheesy side.

    1. If you presume wizards, then it becomes perfectly fine to have them summon dinosaurs to ride. It’s all in the order of operations :)

  2. My kids liked those books and dont even mind the tv-movie that resulted.
    This show was here at the the Delaware Art Museum a few years ago. His style meshed quite nicely with the DAM’s strengths; the Pre-Raphealites and the Brandywine school of illustrators. He’s old-school also in that he keeps a studio full of props, costumes and found objects, uses friends and neighbors as models, does a lot of research, builds architectural maquettes and then finally just draws the world around him to create a different world. We caught a great presentation by Mr. Gurney that focused on drawing, not science or fantasy or dinosaurs, just drawing. 
    Those interested in the subject could check out his blog:
    WARNING: contains no snarky judgements.

    1. I have a copy of Dinotopia and I liked the TV version, too. The book reminds me of a late ninteenth century Lost Continent type Jules Verne story rendered in the art aesthetic of that time. The  costumes in his figures reminded me so much of Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Sometimes I look at Alma-Tadema images and half expect to see oviraptors in the corners.

      And James Gurney’s blog is great. I learn something new every time I go there.

  3. I met James Gurney at a book signing back in the ’90s when the second Dinotopia book came out. I’ve never met a more approachable and gracious professional, before or since. He even gave me his business card and wrote his home phone number on it!

    I find his art to be pretty close to perfection. It has a plein air looseness and love of light, mixed with a researcher’s eye for detail (he’s done work for National Geographic). I regret that there are those who can’t appreciate Dinotopia’s blend of realism and whimsy. The books deftly combine imagination, gentle philosophy and awesome looking dinosaurs! Far more engaging than the TV production based on them.

  4. I saw this exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in CT back in January – this is worth a visit even if you don’t have kids. I loved seeing the original artwork of the books along with the reference models used for some of the scenes. A few older National Geographic drawings are also exhibited. 

  5. Since the website doesn’t say the hours, I called and here’s what I’ve got:

    The gallery will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday

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