Fantastic Prehistoric Cave Paintings.

These cave paintings were used to communicate and record the stories of the artists.

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Discuss the likely origins of art in its earliest days in the prehistoric past. What needs are the visual arts believed to have first fulfilled in human culture?

Cave painting is a form of prehistoric art that dates back hundreds of thousands of years.

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For the oldest figurative pictures, see the (35,000 BCE), although note that the very earliest cave painting was purely abstract: see, for instance, the red-dots among the , dating to 39,000 BCE.)

Paleolithic art, then, experienced an extraordinary flowering in western Europe.

The three main art forms were cave painting, rock engraving and miniature figurative carvings.

The artists who produced these unique paintings used techniques rarely found in other cave art. Many of the paintings appear to have been made only after the walls were scraped clear of debris and concretions, leaving a smoother and noticeably lighter area upon which the artists worked. Similarly, a three-dimensional quality and the suggestion of movement are achieved by incising or etching around the outlines of certain figures. The art is also exceptional for its time for including “scenes”, e.g., animals interacting with each other; a pair of woolly rhinoceroses, for example, are seen butting horns in an apparent contest for territory or mating rights.

After all, fine art is merely a reflection of society, and prehistoric societies were largely defined by the type of tool used.


Prehistoric Art: Origins, Types, Characteristics, Chronology

Dated to the Magdelenean occupation, these paintings include abstract shapes in addition to animal subjects. Solutrean paintings include images of horses and goats, as well as handprints that were created when artists placed their hands on the cave wall and blew pigment over them to leave a negative image. Numerous other caves in northern Spain contain Paleolithic art, but none is as complex or well-populated as Altamira.

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Human occupation was limited to the cave mouth, although paintings were created throughout the length of the cave. The artists used charcoal and ochre or haematite to create the images, often diluting these pigments to produce variations in intensity and creating an impression of chiaroscuro. They also exploited the natural contours in the cave walls to give their subjects a three-dimensional effect. The Polychrome Ceiling is the most impressive feature of the cave, depicting a herd of extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus) in different poses, two horses, a large doe, and possibly a wild boar.

ART HISTORY RESOURCES ON THE WEB: Prehistoric Art

The later Gravettian and Magdalenian cultures gave birth to even more sophisticated versions of prehistoric art, notably the polychrome and the sensational cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira.

A directory of Prehistoric art divided by time period.

The tradition has also persisted in Australia where it still fulfills important social and spiritual functions.Prehistoric art, in general, can be seen as the representation of a symbolic system that is an integral part of the culture that creates it.

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During the Upper Paleolithic, Stone Age art begins to flourish via the venus figurines and the cave painting at Chauvet, Pech-Merle, Cosquer, Lascaux and Altamira.