Rudolph Zallinger's Art Evolved Like Ancient Landscapes He Drew

He started out sketching seaweed and wound up painting portraits of the learned and famous.

Rudolph F. Zallinger's evolution as an artist resembled the evolution of life on this planet as immortalized in his famous, 110-foot-long mural of dinosaurs at Yale University's natural-history museum.

He taught college art along the way. He took additional leaps illustrating Life magazine's scientific books, including the human-evolution timeline from ape to man. He also created dinosaur art for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

The Siberia-born artist won a Pulitzer Art Fellowship in 1949. Recently he did commissioned portraits of judges and college heads.

His work even appeared in the Steven Spielberg film "Congo."

Mr. Zallinger, 75, who died of cancer Aug. 1 in Connecticut, is best known locally for his Museum of History and Industry mural of the Seattle Fire of 1889.

Born to Polish-Austrian refugees who came to Seattle in 1924, Mr. Zallinger graduated in 1937 from Seattle's Queen Anne High School, where he was on the tennis team. He soon won a scholarship to Yale.

"He had to choose between art and music," his sister, Wanda Wells of Seattle, said about her brother, who loved playing classical piano. "So he chose art. He figured he could made a better living at it."

This quiet man with the gentle humor applied himself to his studies and, with his wife, artist Jean Day Zallinger of North Haven, Conn., joined a list of people wanting extra-curricular work.

"That's how he got the mural job," his wife said. "We were in the art school, and he'd done some drawings of seaweed for Albert Parr, head of the Peabody Museum of Natural History. When Parr was looking for a design to put on the wall, an art professor told him to use the guy who did his seaweed."

Mr. Zallinger and his wife studied what was then known about dinosaurs and plants before he started the mural in 1943. Then, he often stayed up to midnight, painting "The Age of Reptiles," which he completed in 1947.

"Before that we didn't even know what dinosaurs were," his wife said. "Now we live them. People think we're experts. Even our son has done a couple of books on them."

According to the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, the Yale mural inspired young people to become scientists, and shaped how several generations view dinosaurs.

The Zallingers resided in Seattle while he taught at Burnley School of Art from 1950 to 1952. Then they returned East for the Life project.

"I put a few skies into his paintings for Life, but nobody knows that," said his wife. "Otherwise, he didn't have any help."

Other survivors include his son Peter Zallinger, of Branford, Conn.; daughters Kristina Zallinger, New Haven, and Lisa Day David, Wilmington, Del.; and two grandchildren.

Services will be scheduled later at Yale University's Battelle Chapel.

Remembrances may be made in his name to Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University, 170 Whitney Ave., New Haven, CT, 06520-8118.