As a child Zallinger absorbed art early -- from his father (an artist), in school, and from private teachers. When he was 17, John Butler, a visiting artist from Virginia, urged him to enroll at Yale. Zallinger entered Yale University's School of Fine Arts that year and received merit scholarships every semester after his first. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting in 1942. He also received a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Yale in 1971.
Early in 1942 Zallinger took on a job doing illustrations of marine algae for oceanographer Albert E. Parr, then Director of the Peabody Museum. According to the late Carl O. Dunbar, Parr recognized "uncommon talent" in the young artist and began talking with him "about the possibility of painting a series of pictures of dinosaurs to cover the east wall" of the Great Hall, which distressed Parr by its lack of color. Dunbar succeeded Parr as Director in 1942 and it was Dunbar's leadership that guided both of the Museum's two great murals, "The Age of Reptiles" and "The Age of Mammals," to completion.
In April 1942, before beginning on the actual mural, Zallinger undertook six months of studies with Yale and Harvard scientists and then 18 months of preliminary art work. Zallinger painted the mural from 1943 to 1947. For this magnificent achievement he received a Pulitzer Award for Painting in 1949.
Zallinger taught art at Yale from 1942 to 1950 and then went back to Seattle to work as a free-lance artist. In 1952 he received a call from Life about the possibility of using the dinosaur mural for its series, The World We Live In, and about painting new works for the same series, including one on the Age of Mammals. Zallinger accepted this commission and returned to Yale in 1953 as Fellow in Geology to begin studies for this work. "The Age of Mammals" was published in Life in October, 1953, but not until the 1960s did funds become available for Zallinger to turn this painting into what is now "The Age of Mammals" mural on the south wall of the Museum's Hall of Mammalian Evolution.
During the fifties and sixties, Zallinger carried out many other assignments, particularly for Life articles. The subjects he painted included the tropical rain forest of Surinam, the Minoans of ancient Crete, and aspects of the Russian Revolution. He also illustrated a book, "Dinosaurs," for Golden Press in 1960.
Among his many honors were honorable mention for the Prix-de-Rome in 1941, Yale's Addison Emery Verrill Medal in 1980 for "outstanding contributions to the field of natural history," and an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Haven. His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Seattle Art Museum and Yale University, and in many private collections.
In addition to his position at the Peabody Museum as "artist-in- residence" after 1952, Zallinger taught at the Yale School of Fine Arts from 1942 to 1950 and was on the full-time faculty of the Hartford Art School of the University of Hartford after 1961. In addition, he taught courses at the Paier School of Art in Hamden, Connecticut.
Rudolph Zallinger was married to the painter Jean Day Zallinger while both were art students, and he was the father of three children. Rudolph
Zallinger died on August 1, 1995.
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