Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prehistory (pt. 3)

Two of the more famous cave painting sites are at Alta Mira, Spain, and Lascaux, France, to give you an idea of where on a map we're looking at.  The pictographs in Alta Mira are supposed by scientists to be from about 12,500B.C.  In Lascaux there is a famous pictograph of a horse, now called the Chinese Horse because other, almost identical drawings horses appear in Chinese art thousands of years later, during 969 to 1126A.D.  The cave paintings at Lascaux were discovered in 1940.
Many times these paintings overlap each other in layers, probably due to lack of more wall space.  This section of cave wall might show the work of not one but several generations of prehistoric artists.
Cave artists also utilized the shape and rough texture of the cave walls to help make their creations look more lifelike.  They sometimes painted in strategic locations so that the bumps on the surface of the wall passed for the animals' muscles.  To further show animals in a more three-dimensional way, artists made relief sculptures carved into stone, bone, ivory, etc.  A relief is a three-dimensional image whose flat background surface is carved away to a certain depth, setting off the figure.  Here are a couple of clay bison reliefs found at Le Tuc d'Audoubert in Ariรจge, France.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prehistory (pt. 2)

The art is almost exclusively of animals, including bison, deer, horses, wooly rhinos, and other species.  Humans are rarely seen in cave paintings.  The scenes involving humans are often depictions of hunting strategies.
The animals are very well-drawn, showing skilled design and observation of proportion, while the humans look like stick figures.  This may be because the art was for instructional purposes.  Before a youth's first hunt, perhaps he was educated in, first and foremost, what the animal looked like, and then maybe how many of that animal could be found in a herd, and so on.  Prehistoric painting may have been a matter of necessity for survival, to teach others how to hunt for themselves and for the group.  A step further from education, and these works could have been religious or superstitious in nature—perhaps these people believed drawing a lifelike picture of an animal captured the animal's spirit (an idea still found in some indigenous cultures around the world).  Perhaps this was some magic ritual purported to bring good luck on the hunt before leaving the cave.  It is not a stretch to imagine some of these cultures could have worshipped these animals (animal idolatry is prevalently described in the Old Testament).  The artwork could have been sacred, since it was separated from the other living areas in the caves.  Plus, mankind at this time hadn't nearly the amount of leisure time and luxury that we have today, so it is unlikely that people would make art purely for aesthetic ends.  These paintings were somehow a part of their survival, of their way of life.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Prehistory (pt. 1)

            Art begins in prehistory, which is merely the history of humankind before recorded history.  This is the time of the hypothesized cavemen.  One of the reasons historians have theorized about cavemen is the presence of so much ancient art within caves like Lascaux, France and Alta Mira, Spain (just to name a couple).  It is clear that caves were prevalently used as shelters during this time, although the existence of actual "cavemen" (the only half-developed ape-like Homo sapiens which evolutionists frequently fantasize about) is quite a stretch, to put it mildly, as is most, if not all, of the doctrines of the Theory of Evolution.  But you all know this already.
Prehistory is divided into two epochs: Paleolithic and Neolithic.  The first of these two is further divided into three phases: Lower, Middle, and Upper Paleolithic (upper being the most recent, and lower being the oldest—it is so named based on the depth from which archaeologists have unearthed the findings).  Paleolithic and Neolithic history is often sometimes nicknamed the Stone Age due to the frequent usage of stone for tools, weapons, shelters, etc., and lithos in fact means "stone."  Scientists estimate the Paleolithic period around 30,000 to 10,000B.C.  Obviously there is not too much known about this period of history, but we can gain clues from artifacts and pictographs that have remained preserved.  In my opinion, this would have to be post-Flood, as it is unlikely this art could have remained so well preserved during such an apocalyptic, worldwide catastrophe.
Pictographs are paintings on rocks; and petroglyphs are carvings.  Again, this is believed to be before any written language had developed, so no words or symbols of any sort of language can be found on these cave walls—only images.  I believe language had to have existed then, according to the Bible, since Genesis describes Adam conversing with God first and then Eve, and Cain and Abel speaking to each other; but this does not necessarily mean that written language existed.  So, shall we say that it is not beyond possibility that the first written or inscribed intelligible symbols were images?  I think that would be pretty cool.
While petroglyphs were carved onto the surface of the cave wall using sharpened tools, pictographs were made with paint.  The paint was made from minerals suspended in water, and it was applied to rock surfaces by either brush or blow tubes.  We know this because oftentimes the artists' tools were found left at the site.  These drawings and drawing tools are generally located in the furthest ends of the caves, where the effects of weather could not destroy them.  It also says a lot about how these people may have valued this art; it was not just carelessly placed at an entranceway, but rather deep inside the earth, hidden like buried treasure.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


You guys ready to look at some art?  Haha, it's going to be fun!  Just to set some context, I didn't know the first thing about art at all until my senior year of high school when I took an art history class just as an elective.  So this is based off what I learned there and what I've learned since.  I am no art connoisseur, not by a long shot, but herein relates what I've learned and what I think.  At the start, I want to cite Gene A. Mitler's textbook Art in Focus as my main source.

               This moment, if you join me, we begin
               A partnership where both must toil to hold
               The clue that I caught first.  We lose or win
               Together; if you read, you are enrolled.
          -C. S. Lewis, Dymer