The book Prehistoric World of Zdeněk Burian, Volume 1 – From the Origin of the Earth to the Extinction of Dinosaurs, and the other two that will follow, try to map in a comprehensive way the part of Zdeněk Burian's work in which he devoted himself to a unique discipline on the border of science and art, a discipline that has been called artistic paleontological reconstruction (or restauration) for many years. In recent decades, the term paleoart has become established for the discipline worldwide. Its origins date back to the first half of the 19th century. Paleoart seeks to interpret paleontological findings and data with a variety of visual arts, thus popularizing the sciences of prehistoric life at the widest public. Over time, Burian is considered the dominant figure in the "classic" period of this genre.

In other words, in these books we try to capture the whole of Burian's „prehistory“. However, the term prehistory must first be defined and delimited, as it is a broad concept. In our "prehistoric" trilogy, we put into context those Burian images of ancient times that fall under the protection of two natural sciences, namely paleontology and paleoanthropology, ie the sciences researching fossils of plants, animals and human ancestors. We don't deal with historical prehistory, which is studied by a discipline called archeology. We deal with archaeological prehistory in these books, in the third volume respectively, only when it overlaps in terms of time with paleoanthropological prehistory. Thus, on the timeline, we end at the beginning of the Neolithic, about twelve thousand years ago, when biological evolution in humans is slowing down and cultural evolution continues. Of the Neolithic scenes, we, in the third book, focus only on those in which Josef Augusta participated, as we strive to capture the Augusta-Burian cooperation in its entirety.

In addition to the prehistoric scenes themselves – from the most serious scientific reconstructions and all the preserved sketches and studies to them, through several free paintings with prehistoric themes and strong artistic overtones and various scenes from the category of genre scenes to illustrations of Josef Augusta's short stories – we also reproduce Burian's depictions of fossils, archaeological artifacts (if they fall within the time period defined by us), famous paleontological localities or paleontologists and paleoanthropologists associated with them. We reproduce portraits of famous personalities of paleontology and evolutionary biology, who are not connected with specific finds, on the frontispiece, resp. in the introductory chapter.

Several keys were offered to sort the individual images. We chose the one that is most understandable to the reader – we follow the timeline from the origin of the Earth to the (geological) present. Virtually, we complete part of the pilgrimage of the heroes of the famous film A Journey to the Beginning of Time, which the film itself did not capture, namely downstream of that mystical river from the primeval ocean and its trilobites back to the present. To paraphrase the name of the iconic film, we will experience a journey from the beginning of time with this trilogy. This criterion is combined with a systematic-taxonomic criterion, where a certain important group of animals is conceived as a whole and the chronological level is only a complementary aspect – for example, dinosaurs, which cover the period from the Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous.

The trilogy can thus be seen in the second plan as a certain overview of the development of life on our planet. However, the main goal of the whole project is, as already mentioned, to contextualize Burian's work in this field with the state of the above mentioned sciences in Burian's time and to confront it with today's level of knowledge. Only in this way can we outline the development of the interpretation of paleontological data during the 20th century.

Due to the chosen keys for sorting works, the other possible approaches had to be sidelined or used only partially, this mainly concerns the possible sorting of images by Burian's life timeline. Thus, we place side by side works from different periods within more than four decades, when the painter dealt with the topic, which naturally does not allow us to reflect the development of his artistic and professional career. We use the time sequence only when we line up the same scenes or the same animals. Another of the keys, which is also used only as a secondary one, is the "incorrect" anthropocentric sorting of the development of life as a ranking "from lower to higher" - that is, from invertebrates to humans as the "peak" of evolution. It is an approach typical of the 20th century, and therefore of all Burian's books – that is why we respect it. In a similar spirit, for individual geological periods, landscape (paleobotanical) scenes are presented first, followed by paintings with animals. We are not naturally scientifically „balanced“ in terms of geological periods, for example, the entire four billion years of the Precambrian weigh less than two million Quaternary years in the books. And third, in the same sense, we place animal groups side by side as their (often supposed) relationship was seen in the painter's time, and with few exceptions we do not apply the latest findings in molecular genetics. We consciously leave the chronological-systematic key several times and focus on important paleontological localities, such as e. g. the Morisson formation.


Burian's four decades with prehistory

The Šipka cave on the Kotouč hill near Štramberk (North Moravia) was a kind of initiation place that "determined" the painter's path in the field of paleoreconstruction. In this cave, where the skeletal remains of a Neanderthal man were found in the late 19th century, Burian played as a boy in the 1910s, and it could be his personal magical portal to the world of prehistory.

At present, when access to detailed professional paleontological data has lost its exclusivity, hundreds of people are dedicated to paleoart as a discipline globally. In Burian's time, however, the artistic representation of prehistory on a "professional" level was a matter for only a few individuals. The artist always had (there were only a few exceptions) to join forces with a scientist-paleontologist. This created famous author pairs. There were several in the 20th century, but the Augusta-Burian pair was the most famous, even so iconic that for many people, especially abroad, the phrase formed a whole.

Paleontologist Josef Augusta invited Burian to collaborate at a time when the painter was the star of Czech narrative illustration, especially books of the adventure genre. The unique combination of his imaginative realism with an exceptional attention to detail, often scientific, made him an ideal candidate for popular science, which he had proved for many years in the magazine Wide World, especially in the series of ethnographic-geographical scenes reproduced here called Earth and People. However, Augusta's attention was most attracted by the painter's illustrations to the novel The Mammoth Hunters by   Eduard Štorch. The book was published at the end of 1937.

Augusta began working with Burian probably shortly afterwards. Some indications are that Augusta participated in the first six of Burian's prehistoric paintings, which were created around 1935. In any case, the first result of a truly full collaboration between the two authors was a 1938 oil painting of a tyrannosaur attacking trachodons, which they created as a sample for a forthcoming publication dealing with the complete history of the Earth called The Wonders of the Prehistoric World (Divy prasvěta).

It did not begin to be published until March 1941, first in serial form at fortnightly intervals; last parts thus came out at a time of fading Nazi atrocities following the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. At the end of 1942, the German occupiers had already banned the distribution of the subsequent hardcover edition.

In parallel with the serial volumes for The Wonders of the Prehistoric World, Burian created illustrations for the first collection of Augusta's fictional short stories from prehistory called Buried Life (Zavátý život). Prehistoric scenes in both titles literally captivated the readership of the time as the painter applied his unique illustrative approach to this new theme and used all the advantages of his film reportage painting, which was visually extremely modern at the time. In addition, in his way of writing, Augusta provided the painter with something that was extremely important to his naturel and creative approach in the reconstruction, the story.

With the end of the occupation, the painter resumed his collaboration with Josef Augusta by working on his new title on Neanderthals. In 1947 and 1948, Burian created illustrations for two of Augustus' other two zoopaleontological short stories – The Lost World (Ztracený svět) and From the Depths of Prehistory (Z hlubin pravěku). The six oil paintings for the latter book soon became almost classic.

With the nationalization of private publishing houses after the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948, Burian's number of illustration orders is reduced to a minimum overnight, and cooperation with Augusta is, among other things, an existential salvation for him. In addition, their work soon acquires an official, state-sanctioned status. The new regime represented by the then Ministry of Information and Enlightenment does not object to the creation of paleoreconstructions, on the contrary, it supports it, perceives it as a popularization of Darwinism, which is considered part of dialectical materialism in the Marxist-Leninist conception of the world.

In socialist Czechoslovakia, the painter was attacked from many directions and the paleoreconstruction became a kind of refuge for him. He was at the peak of his creative powers and he dealt with the topic with extraordinary dedication. He collaborated with Augusta, but also with the leaders of Czech archeology, on a series of medium- and large-format portraits of human ancestors called "About Man", which had a representative character and was not originally intended for reproduction. At the same time, he created a single zoopaleontological painting with a similarly representative character – a portrait of an old iguanodon in the "cemetery" of his species. He worked on contracts for many Czechoslovak institutions, especially museums.

Closely connected with the officially controlled promotion of Darwinism among the "broadest popular classes" was the organization of a monumental exhibition called The Development of the Universe, Earth and Man, which had its Prague and Bratislava parts. Burian created six oils for each. The author duo Augusta – Burian also began working for the State Textbook Publishing House on a project of teaching aids for schools in the form of wall boards, so-called school paintings. The painter worked at irregular intervals for almost twenty years (from 1949 until August's death) on oil paintings of the same dimensions (approx. 64 × 95 cm), which served as the basis for these boards. It is remarkable that less than half of them were made as school boards by the press.

By the way, one of the results of that "propaganda" approach to prehistory at the time is the famous film A Journey to Beginning of Time (1955). Apart from the classic apolitical adventures of four boys set in the imaginative scenery of Karel Zeman (for whom Burian's paintings for The Wonders of the Prehistoric World were a clear primary inspiration) the didactic-enlightening aspect is not to be seen, and it was no coincidence Josef Augusta was an expert-advisor in this film.

In all paintings from the first half of the 1950s, Burian consciously or subconsciously adapted to the expectations of the time and partially suppressed his narrative, film-reporting approach to the topic (so typical for The Wonders of the Prehistoric World). With his formal expression (eg the layout of the composition), he turned more than ever to the painting techniques of the 19th century. However, the first half of the 1950s also includes five of Burian's most important prehistoric paintings, which belong to the so-called free creation, where without the binding authority of a scientific advisor and didactic-educational requirements, guided only by his attitude, his "philosophy", the painter probably created the best works of t his career.

The year 1955 was at a turning point in many ways, especially in that the author pair began to cooperate with the publishing section of the foreign trade company Artia, which helped them literally conquer the world. They created a book that renowned Stephen J. Gould later named one of the three most influential paleontological publications on 20th century (the book also influenced artists such as Frank Frazetta). It was created from the very beginning with the proviso that it would be offered in individual language versions for all major European (and not only European) markets by contract with major publishers in individual countries. It was a kind of "turnkey delivery". The book was published in 1956, in the English version it was called Prehistoric Animals and it was also published in Czech (as the only Burian book from Artia for a long time) in the publishing house Mladá fronta under the title Hlubinami pravěku. The book was conceived more than generously in terms of graphics, polygraphy and format: a short text section is followed by 60 pictures on separate sheets, which clearly acquaint readers with the development of life on Earth. The book has a compliant character, Augusta and Burian primarily chose the best of their work to date, modified many paintings with a time lag and new knowledge (this is the so-called first period of major corrections), and supplemented all this with brand new oil and gouache paintings.

After the huge success of Prehistoric Animals, Artia assigned the duo to work on another similarly conceived volume, this time dedicated to human development. Both authors again used the best of their work to date on the topic, but compared to the first book they created many more original works – with an emphasis on scenes with Neanderthals, but especially with Cro-Magnons. Scenes from the life of the French or Moravian people of the Gravettien and Magdalenian cultures can be considered the painter's opus magnum in the Paleoart field, especially in scenes where he captured prehistoric man in the moments of creation the oldest art (ie paleo-art, the original meaning of the term). Burian thus created a kind of "Cro-Magnon Epic", in which the best part of his philosophy of life crystallized, ie the belief in the original, "paradise", unspoiled civilization of man. A faith that corresponded to the Rousseau ideal of the noble savage and that the painter in his present projected into the lives of the so called primitive people. In portraying these "Indians of the past," Burian largely relinquished the aforementioned academic-museum approach to his reconstructions of the first half of the 1950s, and again emphasized his typical "illustrative," narrative approach. It can be said that this is the most artistically valuable cycle of the painter's career. (What's more paradoxical is that in the book, probably for spatial reasons, eventually only half of the series was used!) The book was published in English as Prehistoric Man in 1960, but the paintings were painted as early as 1958.

The first half of the sixties is most of all connected with four Artia books following the highly successful Prehistoric Animals and Prehistoric Man. Burian worked on these four titles in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1964 (always published one or two years later). The first were Prehistoric Reptiles and Birds about pterosaurs, archeopteryx and Mesozoic birds (with two oil paintings on the theme of Doyle's Lost World), in a smaller square format, atypical for this series. The Book of Mammoths followed, which can be considered Burian's most beautiful book on prehistory in terms of the painter's top work with high-quality reproduction and book design. The painter himself considered the reproductions for the Japanese version of this book to be the best ever. The other two titles were Prehistoric Sea Reptiles and The Age of Monsters about Mesozoic sea reptiles and about the megafauna of the Tertiary and Quaternary respectively. All these books were again published in many languages ​​except Czech. Burian was very much irritated by this fact, which he made clear in interviews from that time. For the communist regime at the time, these books were a source of hard currency, so they did not want to dilute it by wasting printing capacity for the "non-lucrative" Czechoslovak market.

The following five-year period, 1965–1969, was painter‘s least active in the Paleoart field. Although Artia had large plans with other representative publications, only one title passed from the plans to the implementation phase. In 1967, the duo (probably in collaboration with paleobotanist František Němejc) created a total of 17 oils for a book with the working title History of the Forests. It was supposed to be the first purely paleobotanical title of both authors with special regard to the carboniferous flora. However, the title was never completed, as preparations were interrupted in early 1968 by Augusta's sudden death.

Professor Augusta's end was truly unexpected. Coincidentally, it happened just before the beginning of the cemocratisation period called Prague Spring, but his death can mainly mark the end of the so-called classical paleoart period. A period of distinctive artistic individuals, such as the painters Knight, Roubal or Zallinger, a period of famous author duos, a period when Neanderthals were seen as hairy hunched primitives and dinosaurs as dull clumsy errors of nature, doomed to extinction. Robert T. Bakker marked the end of this era with a famous drawing for Ostrom's description of the deinonychus, which dates the beginning of the so-called dinosaur renaissance, ie a completely new interpretive view of this group of vertebrates.


In his "post-classical“ period, that is, in the last decade of his career, Burian adapted to these changes, he continued to form a top paleoart, but he no longer seemed to belong to the new era. This was partly due to the fact that just at the end of the 1960s his work began to show fatigue and uncertainty. Either way, Burian soon acquired a pair of new professional advisors. For Augusta's student and successor in the position of professor of vertebrate paleontology at the Faculty of Science, Charles University, Zdeněk Vlastimil Špinar, it was more or less logical. Zoologist Vratislav Mazák became acquainted with the painter as his admirer during the 1960s, sharing a passion for large felines, especially tigers. In 1966, they created the first "reconstruction" together, but not a paleontological one. Burian planted Amur, the famous male Ussuri tiger from the Prague Zoo, planted on a big canvas in his natural habitat in eastern Siberia. This created an image that already carried all the typical attributes of their subsequent cooperation in the field of paleoart. Painting on the border of scientific illustration, with the individual in an idealized, didactic attitude, moreover with a somewhat academically realistic environment. The strength of the paintings from the Augusta‘s period lay, as already mentioned, in their illustrative nature, ie storytelling, action, use of visually attractive compositions and other compositional "tricks". The power of the best paintings created with Mazák, on the other hand, lies in simple, "classic" compositions, the viewer is mainly affected by the "philosophical aspect" of the central individuals, which is generally typical of Burian's paleoart, but excels even more in collaboration with Mazák.

Burian was approached by Bernhard Grzimek, a German naturalist and writer, in the second half of 1960s. He offered him a collaboration on the encyclopedic project Grzimeks Tierleben, a kind of modern version of Brehm's Life of Animals. And Mazák has become a professional guarantor for this series of paintings. In 1967, he and Burian created several tempera for volumes about birds and reptiles, and Mazák was already able to enforce some of the latest scientific findings here – such as "fur" in pterosaurs.

With the general easing of Czechoslovak social conditions in the second half of the 1960s, the regime allowed more direct contact between the painter and the West, and so, in addition to Grzimek, the Italian artist Rinaldo D’Ami also addressed the painter. After Augusta's death, Artia decided not to continue with the planned series of publications and focused on a completely new title, this time not monothematically focused. They again published a book with an overview of the development of life, thus a kind of updated version of Prehistoric Animals. The working title was Encyclopedia of Prehistory and Špinar was chosen as the author of the texts. Over 130 works from the Augustan period were selected, including many never published. Many reconstructions had to be corrected again after years, so we are talking about the so-called second period of major corrections. 27 paintings were created de novo directly for this book. New paintings were mostly in 1970.

Špinar cared much more than Augusta about the evolutionary or "geological" importance of a given species or habitat, even at the expense of their "spectator attractiveness". For Augusta, the bizarreness of the reconstructed species was crucial, especially in connection with the strong story in the background, while for Špinar, something like this was largely unimportant. Both were top educators and popularizers, but both with a different approach. Contrary to what has been said, most of the paintings for this book with the final English title Life before Man respect the visuality of the Augusta‘s period, and the tarbosaurus image for this publication closes this period (and with it the aforementioned classical era of paleoart).

Prior to their actual release of Life before Man (1972), both scientists worked with the painter on one subsequent cycle. In 1971, Burian and Professor Špinar created twelve oils for an upcoming encyclopedia with the working title Man and Nature. The encyclopedic institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences worked on it. The whole project was canceled with the emerging communist "normalization" after the Russian invasion, and all twelve oils were incorporated into the sixth part of another project of this institute – the Small Czechoslovak Encyclopedia, sixteen years after their creation. These paintings are already easily distinguishable from the Augustan period, either by their classic composition, which is related to the encyclopedic character of the paintings, or by the contrasting colors, which were atypical for Burian until now. Here, Špinar again chose, with a few exceptions, scenes in which he wanted to depict those animals or paleontological localities that the painter had not worked on until then.

If the paintings for the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences had an "encyclopedic" character, then the same is doubly true for the paintings for the next cycle from these years. He painted them under the professional supervision of Mazák at the turn of 1971 and 1972 for the last, supplementary volume of Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. The painter created a total of 13 oils for this special part dedicated to the development of life on Earth. German authors had always suggested merging a large number of species into a single scene, but this form of reconstruction was not Burian's own. Together with Mazák, they discussed the final version with a German publisher for a long time, nevertheless the resulting oils can be considered problematic due to their excessive schematicity and poster color.

In 1972 and 1973, Burian completed the sale of most of his hitherto created paleopaintings to the Moravian Museum and its Anthropos Institute, which was then headed by anthropologist Jan Jelínek. Jelínek initiated the purchase and transfer. At the time, Burian received many offers from the world for the complete redemption of his prehistory, but he rejected them for patriotic reasons. The financial aspect did not play a role for the painter, he sold his entire monumental work to the Brno institution for a negligible amount, even in the context of the time. In addition to being a Czechoslovak center of Paleolithic reaserch, Burian chose Brno also of Moravian patriotism. The institution also promised to the painter that it would build a special pavilion for the permanent exhibition of this unique collection, which unfortunately has not happened to date.

In 1974, Burian drew and painted a number of line drawings and oil paintings for Mazák's opus magnum in the field of paleoanthropology, a book How a Man Was Born (Jak vznikl člověk), subtitled The Saga of the Genus Homo. With the oil portraits of Gigantopithecus or Ramapithecus for this title, finally published only in 1977, the authors probably reached the peak of their collaboration. This includes also the oil Mazák and the painter created for the cover of Živa magazine in 1975, which introduced the audience to a completely new type of human called Homo ergaster, in the scientific description of which Mazák participated. The description of this type of human was the greatest success for Mazák in the field of paleoanthropology.

In addition, between 1974 and 1977, the painter, together with Professor Špinar, created 25 paintings for the university textbook Paleontology of Vertebrates (Paleontologie obratlovců), which was being prepared by a scientist. Špinar again, similarly to Life before Man or the cycle for the Academy of Sciences, focuses on evolutionarily important groups and interesting solitary species, either newly discovered or older, but not covered by Augusta. Also for landscape shots reconstructing significant Czechoslovak localities with vertebrate finds and especially new discoveries of Polish-Mongolian expeditions in the Gobi Desert, including Mesozoic mammals. These paintings reflect Špinar's harmony with the rising dinosaur renaissance, with which Mazák also strongly harmonized. Already in 1970, Mazák wrote an article in the Živa magazine "Dinosaurs and Zdeněk Burian", in which he states that the painter portrayed dinosaurs (especially the limb position of ceratopsids) in this new vision as early as the early 1940s. Burian reacted positively to the dinosaur renaissance, his attempts to cope with Bakker's drawings are interesting, yet we feel that the painter's "great lizards" from the 1940s and 1950s are somehow more "true". In 1975, Burian began collaborating with another scientist, anthropologist Josef Wolf, whom Artia urged to write and compile a large representative publication on human evolution. The 70-year-old Burian was literally overwhelmed with work at the time, and he was also burdened by mental and physical ailments. This is also inadvertently reflected in these oils, which with their awkward figures sometimes give a panoptical impression.

In 1977 and 1978, the painter worked on two of Artia's books in a "pocket" format and with the character of a natural atlas. The first book was named Prehistoric Animals and Plants (1979) and in addition to the obligatory selection of older items (often severely cropped due to the nature of the book), 16 color gouaches were created for this title under the guidance of the National Museum vertebrate paleontologist Josef Beneš. As a scientist, the painter logically focused on Cenozoic mammals, especially ungulates and carnivorans. A kind of pandanium for Beneš's book was a similarly conceived volume by Vratislav Mazák Prehistoric Man, published in 1980, for which the already well coordinated duo produced 7 gouaches and 7 oils, in which they repeated the compositional schemes of their previous works.

The last book project with a prehistoric theme was a book called Prehistoric Life on Earth - Artia's third book, which could be published in Czech at the same time as or shortly after the foreign language edition. Its author at the time was Burian's youngest collaborator, Bořivoj Záruba. The painter no longer held the finished book in his hand, it was not published in German until after his death, in 1982 and in Czech a year later. Burian worked on it in 1977 (partly probably in 1979). This book was aimed more at the children's reader, the emphasis was on pictures accompanied by brief texts. There were illustrative diagrams and pictures with a simplified instructive character.

In 1977, Jan Skořepa, an admirer and student of Burian, introduced Zdeněk Burian to Josef Vágner, a long-time director of the East Bohemian Zoo and Safari in Dvůr Králové. He challenged the painter to create an image for the zoo depicting the development of life on Earth. His original idea was based on Rudolph Zallinger's two famous murals, The Age of Reptiles and The Age of Mammals, which are large-scale panoramic paintings at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. However, Burian rejected such a physically demanding project due to his age. In the end, he promised to Vágner to create an equally demanding cycle of 34 paintings measuring 120 × 155 cm and 120 × 100 cm, which in total meant by far the most extensive painter's project in the field of paleoart. Mazák became a professional advisor and Burian between 1977 and with his death managed to complete 22 canvases. The painter suspected that he might die in the middle of the project, and in order for the cycle to make sense even in such a case, he created the paintings gradually in the rhythm of individual geological eras. For these canvases, as with some of his 1950s oils, Burian adapted the composition and painting style to the fact that the paintings were intended primarily for installation in an exhibition, not for reproduction. More than ever, the painter indulged in the smallest details, and in almost every painting he became intoxicated with interesting atmospheric phenomena. And perhaps in anticipation of his own death, he filled many of these paintings with a calm, contemplative atmosphere with lots of old or dead trees and rotting trunks. Although Mazák was a supporter of a new view of dinosaurs, he and Burian returned to the traditional concept. Perhaps he was led by the fact that these were paintings for a permanent exhibition intended for the general public and not for an university textbook reserved for a narrow circle of insiders, as was the case for paintings for Špinar's Paleontology of Vertebrates (at the turn of the seventies and the eighties not only the Czech lay public knew almost nothing about the dinosaur renaissance).

In the 1970s, the painter's work enjoyed considerable popularity abroad thanks to a series of Artia books of the augustinian era, and it was again supported by the title Life before Man. With the knowledge of a certain inertia, more than 20 paintings from the "classic" period, which appeared in the prestigious publication Our Continent by the National Geographic Society (the publishing house sent its own photographer to Czechoslovakia at that time) can be described as the culmination of this response. The painter's paleoanthropological reconstructions of the 1970s also reached the West through repeated editions of Wolf (1977) and Mazák (1980), but their response to the lay and general professional public was smaller than that of the Prehistoric Man (1960) paintings. Zoopaleontological reconstructions from the last decade of the painter's life were practically unknown to the Western audience (and partly also to the Czech audience) until the mid-1990s. To this day, they cause embarrassment, and for many people abroad even the impression that they had to be created by another artist.

Since 1978, Burian (with the exception of a few paintings for Mazák and Špinar) has focused only on the series for Dvůr Králové Zoo, he did not have enough strength for other larger projects. Despite the fact that he was literally overwhelmed by "prehistoric" commissions in the last decade of his life, the painter, thanks to his essential honesty and extremely responsible approach to creation, performed the tasks stoically. He believed that it was his life mission, that, as he said, he was born to do so. The social significance of this part of his work was unquestionable for him. Although he he had to use words about the „development of a scientific worldview" in interviews for media of „nomalization“ era, the painter entirely authenticly believed in the power of human evolution sciences to "prove the absurdity of racist theories." In addition to knowing the enormous impact his books had on adolescents, he himself was fascinated by the subject until the last moment. As he himself said: "You know, a person who has been doing something as wonderful as studying human evolution for over thirty years will find it difficult to paint a still life with two mugs."

When the painter died in mid-1981, his unfinished cycle for the Dvůr Králové Zoo made sense in itself, but it was still considered how to supplement it. Directly offered was a magnificent collection of more than thirty oils for school paintings, which until then lay in the depository of the national company Komenium. Two years after the artist's death, a permanent exhibition, supplemented by these paintings, was finally opened. A year later, the Špinar‘s Paleontology of Vertebrates was finally published and three years later (sixteen years after painting) also paintings for the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in one of its encyclopedias. In the 1980s, however, not many books with Burian's illustrations were published and the only significant exhibition at which his prehistoric paintings could be seen after his death was opened in 1984 in Olomouc. However, after eleven years, in 1983, Artia finally received permission to publish Life before Man in Czech.

With the return to democracy in Czechoslovakia in 1989, there was a general burianian boom, which, however, only partially concerned the painter's prehistory. Exhibitions with painter's book illustrations were held several times a year in the 1990s, but important canvases from his paleo work appeared (and do appear) only sporadically. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Burian's prehistory as such found itself in a special position: the whole paleontology (especially its parts focused on the research of dinosaurs and human ancestors) developed in a rapid way at that time and Burian's paleorecostructions quickly became obsolete from a professional point of view. The last two titles where Burian's paintings could still be taken seriously in terms of a credible accompaniment to a popular science text about prehistory were Bořivoj Záruba's new book The Road to Prehistory and the new, updated edition of Life before Man in the mid-1990s. The latter mentioned book was published again in several foreign versions, and in contrast to the 1972 edition, its pictorial part was supplemented by Burian's paintings from the 1970s. Zdeněk Burian and his paleoart have since become respected classics. Burian has been a legend in part already during his lifetime, but over time his uniqueness becomes more and more obvious. The factual side of his paintings is obsolete, but their natural-historical and, above all, artistic aspect will remain permanently part of the golden fund of the entire discipline.


Burian's creative method

A total of four "personalities" competed in Burian as an artist, and it was in his paleoart that this was most evident. The first one, it  was a Burian the Romantic, an uncomplicated and playful man captivated by the atmosphere of the full moon or the combat of a man with a shark, a fight to the death. The other one was a Burian the scientist, obsessed with detail, regardless of a Siberian shaman's costume or the mouth of an allosaur male. The third one? A Burian the "moralist," a Burian the educator and the pedagogue, whose life credo was that art must educate and serve in the best sense of the word. While these three "personalities" in Burian fought each other brutally, the fourth seemed to stand outside. It was a Burian the "philosopher", a personality that is difficult to define and rather subconscious. With these foundations, Burian entered the world of adventurous exotic romance and applied them phenomenally. And prehistory, it was nothing but a new challenge for all these "personalities." The Jurassic world was as good for them as the world of Gran Chaco.

In terms of form, the "prehistoric" Burian is as old-fashioned as the "adventurous" Burian. His painting technique is based on the methods of the 19th century (Franz Roubal from 1920 is therefore much more modern in artistic terms than Zdeněk Burian from 1960) and the painter never leaned towards any artistic movement. He had much in common with the artists of the 19th century in his thinking; just as them he was captivated by the silhouette of a bizarre reptile against the backdrop of an erupting volcano or tropical night sky (pp. 286 and 434-435). His duel of the tylosaur with the elasmosaur (p. 342) is just a realistically crafted artistic vision of the "Victorian era" (see Riou's engraving from Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth) with all its attributes of dark bizarreness and mystery. On the other hand, Burian can be a very modern, new (almost postmodern) man who, with extraordinary ease, incorporates progressive elements of Hollywood film or reportage photography of his time into his paintings (he often arrived at these elements completely independently). He is not afraid to take a pair of Plesiosaurs from a completely unexpected perspective (p. 332).

The scientific aspect of Burian's reconstructions arose in close contact with scientists. It was always consulted with a professional advisor countless times before finalization (and gradually changed in the developed picture). Repairs were often made even after years (or decades with another expert). The two periods in which these corrections were concentrated were mentioned above (1955 and 1970). Of course, the optimal technique for such a style of work is oil painting, because it is ideal for later repainting.

To this day, Burian's paleoart is unique in how holistically its reconstructions are conceived. This holistic approach consists mainly in how well-thought-out the phytopaleontological aspects and the broader "geological-climatological" conditions of the scenery are in the paintings focused on prehistoric fauna. In some paintings, a whole constellation of scientists guaranteed that the result was perfect from the time of science. (At the same time, despite the above, Burian's preparations for reconstruction cannot be compared to the possibilities available to today's elite Paleo-artists, such as John Gurche.) The holistic nature of Burian's scenes also includes the fact that the painter's scenes stand up in an ecological-behavioral point of view, namely that his animals react very naturally with their surroundings and other species, despite the fact that in his time these aspects of paleontology were still given relatively little importance.

Burian created several preparatory sketches for each scene. He himself talked about the preparation process in many interviews: “It is not possible to take a canvas, a palette and start painting right away. First, there are several drawings, where the basis is always a skeleton. Finally, I have the approved shape of the animal and its head, limbs in motion… Then I make them on a piece of paper in colors and finally in a large format on canvas. ” This was the case, for example, with school paintings, in which some of the elaborate watercolor studies on paper have survived to this day (eg Brown Coal Forest, 1950 or Deinotherium, 1951). Burian continues: "Reconstruction (…) is hard work." "The creation of the image is really strenuous and responsible. I'll get a skeleton, sometimes incomplete, of its photo." It has to be added that in the vast majority of cases he had only a photograph as a basis, he did not have a chance to get to the real fossils of most of the vertebrates he depicted in Czechoslovakia of his time. Even with this handicap (pointed out by Mark Witton), he was able to surpass Charles R. Knight, who worked in the heart of the most prestigious natural history museum in the world, the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “A skeleton is assembled from skeletal material; I then draw this in the positions I consider most appropriate for the future painting. " "The movement can be represented by the displacement of the bones. It's a bit like a cartoon.” These words are beautifully illustrated by many sketches reproduced in all three volumes of the monograph. "Then we supplement the skeleton with muscle." "Before it comes to life, it looks like a retracted rabbit." However, there are relatively few such scenes in the painter's work (as the sketches we reproduce prove again). Burian mostly skipped this phase, he didn't need it because he knew the anatomy perfectly - as a self-taught person. In this, too, Knight, who studied anatomy professionally, was suprassed by him. "It's best seen on horses. Every muscle looks beautiful there. After all, I've been painting horses since I was a kid. We had them at home. Horses and dogs." "And by the way - the horse's anatomy is decisive for all quadrupeds, the changes in their muscles are only slight."

Traditional art historians blame Burian for being too focused on detail, but this is a clear misunderstanding of the function of artistic paleoreconstruction. For this, of course, detail is crucial. The painter himself says: “It depends on every detail. If the animal in the foreground is painted with all the details, the color of the fur, the eyes, the claws, and so on, the background must be painted in the same style.” "My imagination is only in the composition of the image and its mood." At the same time, he knew that if anyone in the author duo could at least partially unleash that imagination, it was only him. "Each of the scientists has to take care of his reputation, so he doesn't dare to 'fantasize‘." Of course, Burian himself was not a natural scientist; in this respect, professional supervision was necessary for his paleoart. However, he managed to be very inspiring to scientists with his layman's view, see, for example, his interpretation of the death of a group of Ethiopian australopithecs. Sometimes, with his legendary intuition for which he needed no formal education — it was based on his unique observational skills — he even was ahead of scientific knowledge. For example, in the locomotion of dinosaurs or the gender of the finding of an early member of the genus Homo. As a person who believes in the pantheistic character of "Nature", he had a rather reserved relationship with evolution as the official scientific theory of his time, the so-called neo-Darwinism. Juraj Gullár, Burian's student, talks about Burian’s understanding the "motion of matter".

Burian inserted the above-mentioned "philosophy" unknowingly into his paintings, not thinking that he might want to philosophize. That philosophy, that is a kind of his author's license, lies primarily in Burian's specific "existentialism." Elements of loneliness and sadness, a kind of burianian melancholy, play a huge role in him. The actors in his paintings are mostly lonely individuals, maximally small (family) groups. Sadness is contained in the expression of many of his animal heroes, and it does not matter whether it is an old monoclonius (p. 468) or a wolf, much of the painter's soul can be seen in their faces. It is the supreme pathos engraved on the faces of the old iguanodon or styracosaurus (pp. 441 and 477), the poetic pathos that is the goal of Burian's endeavor. However, foreign theorists see this melancholy and sadness as a dark (sometimes adjectives demonic or brutal are used) aspect of his scenes. Abroad, the painter's visions of the Neanderthals have always resonated in this regard. This interesting observation is often related to the political atmosphere of Central Europe in Burian's time. Although some judgments are somewhat stereotypical, it is indisputable that the spirit of the time, but also the painter's difficult childhood and youth, certainly influenced the atmosphere of his paintings.

Augusta‘s fiction short stories became the inspiring platform for the motives on which he was based, in which he could apply his philosophy and which were necessary for his artistic approach. However, Burian chose only what he wanted, his approach is free of all expressive bloodthirsty brutality (Augusta officially refused it, but his stories are still full of it). There is almost no blood on his paintings. His fighting animals are usually captured just before they blow, squeeze, bite. And two fighting predators are rather an exception.

There are certain elements in Augusta's short stories that make Burian artistically extremely excited, such as the victim's fatal surrender to his conqueror. That is, something completely unacceptable to today's generation of paleoartists. For Burian, however, it is something extremely powerful – that iguanodon's pathetic reconciliation with destiny, that (super)human suffering of brontosaurus or edmontonia (pp. 437, 408 and 494). Probably the strongest element for Burian is the motif of a lonely dying individual – the end of the life journey of an old iguanodon in a "cemetery of its species" (p. 441) or the heroic death of a megaloceros and the Berezovka mammoth. For Buiran, death is a matter of extreme intimacy, free from all sensationalism. This is one of the reasons why there is no scene of a catastrophic end of dinosaurs in his work.

One of his artistic approaches, and his author's license, is that he distributes his sympathies or antipathies to his heroes. Journalist Ondřej Neff recalls an interview over one painting: ZB: "This is such an unsympathetic reptile." So which one is the most likable? ”ZB:“ I prefer iguanodon. But I don't like the tyrannosaurus. His dwarf hands… Some animal is beautiful, yes, some is not beautiful. There is nothing that can be done about it.“ His prehistoric animals are "personalities“, Burian identifies with these creatures. At the end of the creative process, he tries to tell us his experience, his "obsession with nature", as Juraj Gullár called it.

Burian's main tool is synthesis. In his adventurous-romantic work, as the theorist Petr Sadecký said, "he composes his ideal lion out of many photos of lions." His paleoreconstruction is about two aspects of understanding this synthesis. There are two seemingly contradictory approaches. The first is a synthesis of scientific data transformed, in the words of Vratislav Mazák, thanks to Burian‘s "specific vision of nature, combined with an exceptionally developed sense of shape, its biological function and usefulness" into the resulting artistic reconstruction. Several years before Mazák, art critic Miroslav Klivar hinted at a similar thing with words about Burian's understanding of the analogy and homology of form. All of the above was based on the painter's extraordinary observational skills in a broader sense. Burian himself said, "I can only say that I live by observation."

The form that Burian visualizes that "synthesis" is its specific composition and choice of colors. Sometimes he expresses "everything" with a simple monumental vertical composition – as in the oil Mammuthus (Parelephas) ​​trogontherii or preferably in the painting Tarbosaurus bataar (p. 511). At other times, he "scatters" the individual elements intricately (and yet intuitively) throughout the image. As a student of Burian, Gullár speaks of the most important thing he gained from Burian, as the realization that the most perfect system is purposeful chaos. In this sense, he speaks of Burian's synthesis as the composition (again, rather intuitive, unconscious) of individual meaning-forming elements and symbols in an effort to communicate his "obsession with nature." In his eyes, this is Burian's true art.

Gullar even goes so far as to speak in connection with Burian's understanding of nature about a completely independent understanding of the laws of the Japanese art of ikebana and bonsai. The main role here is played by the so-called motif of three, which is contained, for example, in the image of three elasmosaurs (p. 340) or in the depiction of the family element – father, mother and son on the second version of the deinotherial motif, 1951. Here, in Gullár's understanding, Burian disengages from the disturbing element of the snake (from the first version, 1940) and lets the viewer influence only his pure composition.

And here we encounter that second understanding of Burian synthesis. They are presented by Petr Sadecký's realistic-journalistic concept. He sees as the main thing what will survive, not science (which, according to him, is transient), but romance, an adventurous-romantic element of Burian's paintings. In this sense, on the contrary, he understands as the most mature version of Burian's deinotherial search the first one of The Wonders of the Prehistoric World, where he perceives the python not as a disturbing element but as a carrier of romantic excitement and criticizes the 1951 version of the "pose for the pose" of the old male…

In Sadecký's conception, Burian synthesizes from the motives of other authors, chooses what he needs, and adds his perfect technique, his main external uniqueness, a feeling for the surface, for structure in the most general sense of the word (from anatomy to geomorphology) and finally mainly adds its romance. The result is convincing, and at the same time stimulates the imagination. In later years, however, Sadecký began to talk about a significant element of plagiarism in connection with the "synthesis from the motives of other authors". Let us add that Burian's method is in some respects not entirely original. Augusta himself says in a afterword of The Wonders of the Prehistoric World: "… If possible, we based the reconstructions on skeletal material published in professional monographs, taking into account all older and newer pictorial reconstructions, if they were made." We have to say that they were, the painter and Augusta probably did not show a single species that someone else would not artistically reconstruct before them. However, the originality for Burian in this regard was not the most important. The painter wanted to insert his view, his "personalities" outlined above, all his "external uniqueness" and, last but not least, his "philosophy" into scenes from prehistory.

Two examples for all: first Abel reconstructed the Solnhofen landscape, then Burian came, took over all the elements of this drawing, including the ramphorhynchus in the sky, and created one of his gems, 2nd version of the motif "meeting of the compsognathus with archeopteryxes" (p. 526 and 528-529). And the example for understanding Burian's "inspiration" perhaps even clearer: H. Kalmsteiner, following design by F. König, created an amusingly amateurish scene of a prehistoric proboscidean‘s encounter with a saber-toothed tiger. Burian no doubt saw it – and then created his own version. It is an inspiration that is completely legitimate, just as legitimate as contemporary artists are nowadays inspired by Burian (in addition to the parallel existence of obvious plagiarism, of course), as Mark Hallett in the creation of his fighting triceratops males. He took over all the main attributes from Burian's arsinoiteria rut – both males in exactly the same situation and positions (only taken by the creator from a different angle), even that romantic forest and the "indifferent" female remain in the background. The whole Hallett painting is inspired in a completely creative way (and at the same time it is a tribute to the old master).

Stephen Jay Gould defined the approach of the paleoartists of the 1970s and 1980s as postmodern - that is, playful, original, iconoclastic - with the most typical representatives being G. S. Paul and especially W. Stout. Burian's method, characterized by Gullár-Sadecký's synthesis, aimed to express his "philosophy" and "vision of nature", and those postmodern elements are more of a by-product. These are the exceptions seen only in the "second plan" - meant figuratively and specifically in the background of his paintings. Thanks to Burian's first "personality" (the playful Romantic mentioned above), these postmodern elements in Burian’s work often flash, but not to a greater extent, because the painter naturally created in a different scientific-historical context.

Burian enters the scene when Charles R. Knight reigns in the field of paleoreconstruction. At a time when dinosaur orthodoxy is reaching its climax. The depiction of (not only) dinosaurs then stabilized in a kind of, in the words of Stephen Jay Gould, a modern consensus. Burian clearly follows Knight and overcomes him in every way. In any case, the two are the most famous paleoart creators, and people of the 20th century saw prehistory through their eyes. In both of them, their paleo-creation is timeless in its beginnings. For Knight, this is due to the unconsolidated dinosaur orthodoxy at the end of the 19th century, a time that was still completely open to different opinions and concepts. After getting into the machinery of a professional team at the American Museum of Natural History, his work becomes one of the pillars of that orthodoxy.

Even Burian is timeless with dinosaurs at first. In his case, this is due to the not yet fully consolidated process of creating an "ideal reconstruction" in the author pair: Augusta leaves some freedom to the painter, his feeling and naturalness are not yet suppressed. And fortunately, they will never be completely. The two greats together formed the so-called Knight-Burian era in the first seven decades of the 20th century. The era that followed the Hawkins-Riou era. The time when this activity still had a very romantic touch, which is now irretrievably gone, as Gregory S. Paul points out. The period of famous couples: Osborn – Knight, Abel – Roubal, Augusta – Burian. This "classical" period ends in 1968, when Augusta dies, and the new, postmodern or, say, Renaissance, begins a year later with the publication of Bakker's visualizations of the deinonycho in Ostrom's famous study. As already mentioned, Burian concludes "his" era heroically in 1970 with the legendary Tarbosaurus bataar oil.

The Knight-Burian period was entirely connected with the science and state of social thought of the time, Gould's internal and external factors. Although Augusta, compared to his predecessors, under the influence of Othenio Abel understood paleontology as a science much closer to biology than geology, it was still a rather descriptive discipline (in contrast to today's contextual one with a clear focus on ecology and ethology). The paintings they created with the painter were not a visualization of the original paleobiological ideas, they were primarily a kind of "mission" – the spread of evolutionary teaching. In addition, Augusta‘s work has the whole character of anthropocentric thinking, so typical for society at the time, in which evolution is conceived as steps leading to an imaginary peak – human. Indeed, Burian does not deal, with a few exceptions, with invertebrates after the older Paleozoic in his entire work. The painter took this "mission" extremely seriously. Due to his third "personality", he considered the scientific and pedagogical side to be almost sacred, which led to his sometimes blind obedience to scientists. One of the main criteria for creating the "ideal image" was the didactic criterion. This played a key role, often suppressing Burian's nature. The painter himself said: "As a rule, there is always one exact reconstruction in the painting and the other animals are in different positions, where of course my knowledge of anatomy, perspective etc. will be applied." Let us give three examples: the first – Pteranodon ingens, 1960 (p. 380-381). A group circling over the Kansas Upper Cretaceous Sea, all individuals on the left and back are fantastically natural – like live jet fighters. The "central individual" on the right seems to be frozen, as if hung in a museum on the lines someone had overpainted here. The body in an unnatural position, so that none of the bodily conditions is distorted by perspective, so that the number of fingers and the shape of the claws is absolutely clear… School paintings were exemplary for the application of didactic aspects, eg A settlement of a prehistoric man from the Early Stone Age, 1950. First a preparatory sketch – on it, the whole group of Neanderthals is excited by the presence of woolly rhinos behind the stream. But here already under the man in the foreground is written "threatening" painter's note - "calm posture". On the resulting canvas the man is already standing like a statue, completely ignoring the surrounding events. And one last example: both of Burian's scenes of the Silurian shelf world. The first is a school painting from 1951 (pp. 86-87). Everything is influenced by those didactic aspects, everything is bound by strict rules. The cephalopods are symmetrically arranged, each "focused" in the same way, one never overlapping the other. The older version of The Wonders of the Prehistoric World (pp. 84-85) has not yet been bound by such strict didactic rules. The blurred shadows and silhouettes of the orthoceres in the background, we will not find anything like that in the school picture. Nevertheless, both belong to the Burian‘s classics.

Sadecký speaks of Burian as a "court painter" of prehistory. He thus encounters his idealization of reality, its deformation, a kind of its censorship in the sense of the phenomenon that Sadecký generally calls "antisepticism". According to him, Burian excludes all details and elements which, according to the painter, are disruptive due to their overly naturalistic realism. He also transfers the scientific rules for "ideal reconstruction" to the level of his own artistic approach. So, exceptionally, we see blowing dust, feet buried in mud or steam at the trunks of mammoths. We can explain this with the already mentioned "reconstruction law", which always orders to clearly show all the important morphological features, not excluding the tip of the trunk. This is undoubtedly the case, but Sadecký is convinced that "idealization" has passed into Burian's "state of mind". Burian excludes all unaesthetic things (remember his third "personality") - Sadecký speaks of Burian's "Victorianism". Dung and excretion (as we can see at Stout or even at Henry de la Beche) or flies flying around the stinking mouths of beasts, we won't see in Burian. And mating? There is only one exception, and that is given by the painter in a highly lyrical form (p. 324).

According to Sadecký, Burian seems to be losing his courage in his quest for maximum seriousness. He didn't need any Gurche‘s "dust vortex simulations," that wasn't a problem for him, but rather that he didn't dare. Sadecký recalls August's statement: "Only no wilderness." (This conservatism, on the other hand, allowed them both to avoid mistakes, in the style of predatory triceratops in the early 1970s.) Example for all: Burian's pterosaurs almost always have their wings in a horizontal position in flight, slightly above it at most, never below it, it's okay with ala pteranodon gliders, but it sometimes seems unnatural for rhamphorynchuses and pterodactyls. With this "idealization" approach, Burian got into certain clichés, especially with the postures of individuals. As a result of the main, ie didactic criterion (time stress often played an indisputable role), we can see most of the quadrupeds in Burian’s work in the right or left half-profile from a slight top view.

Sadecký finds the ideal of the paleoart in the work of the Italians Giorgio De Gaspari and Sergio Budicin for the book Guarda e scopri gli animali della preistoria (for which Burian himself created the paintings) and especially the already mentioned William Stout, in their quest for maximum originality. According to Sadecký's ideal, big fish should swim between limbs of Burian's famous Tendaguru brachiosaurs (pp. 428-429) …

But is Sadecký's overtaking in originality and romantic elements a real goal? Certainly not. As has already been said, there are many of those "postmodern" elements in the painter's prehistory. But these are not the most important, there are just so many in Burian's work that they do not become self-serving. Burian's genius in paleoart lies elsewhere. The painter became a legend thanks to the fact that he fully devoted himself to this topic, that he put all his phenomenal talent and diligence into it and that with a persistent effort to balance the four "personalities" mentioned above tried to get the result – to see and capture those long-extinct worlds. As he himself said: "Maybe it's just such a quality, a gift I've always had. (…) I guess I was born for this job."


Composition of images and captions

The Volume one contains a total of 412 paintings, illustrations and sketches, of which 209 items were obtained by lending for the possibility of reprinting from galleries and museums, 135 items were obtained from private collectors. The vast majority of the works reproduced in this book were photographed or scanned in connection with its creation. High-quality negatives, slides or xerocopies created earlier were also partially used. Only with a small part of the works, those that we could not find, we reproduce scans from the original publications, in which case the label always states "original unavailable" (originál nedostupný).

We based the names of the individual works on the fact that they were the names of artifacts, and we therefore respect the names that were originally intended for the paintings. The vast majority were named by Vratislav Mazák in the cataloging he founded, later edited and published in Vladimír Prokop's publications. Many animals depicted in the paintings are now classified as different species or genera after various revisions, but in our case we do not take this fact into account in the names of the paintings, specific cases are then mentioned in the accompanying texts of the book. We capture the problems of so-called synonyms in the names of paintings only if Vratislav Mazák tried to capture them; thus reflecting the state of science until the mid-1980s at most). If Mazák thus changed the name of the animal against its original name in the publication for which the painting was originally intended, we put Mazák's name in parentheses. For school paintings and oils for the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, we put their names in parentheses as an alternative. In the illustrations for Augustus' short stories, the titles are changed in several cases to give a better idea of ​​the specific animals in the illustration (similarly to the paintings for Vertebrate paleontology -Paleontologie obratlovců). In illustrations for short stories, we also state after the hyphen the name of the specific Augusta‘s story and in square brackets the order of printing the illustration within the given short story. The position and form of the signature is clear on the vast majority of reproduced images, if this is not the case in exceptional cases, we state both the location and the form of the signature behind the dimensions of the image. Under the current owner's name, the book or the exhibition title is listed, for which the image was primarily created. Subsequently, we present the titles in which the repainted variants appeared.

Only those Burian paintings that have a final character are included in the number system by which we strive to introduce a clear order into Burian's prehistoric works. This does not include studies or sketches, however elaborate. And this includes only those paintings that are a scene from prehistoric times, even those didactically stylized (see, for example, pp. 304 and 354). Therefore, we did not include images of paleontological sites, paleontologists or redrawn fossils in the system. The images that belong to the system according to the above-mentioned criteria are sorted according to the chronology of creation within Burian's work.