The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters
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Pre-Historic Art

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 The artistic desire to make images without any function surfaced from the beginning of man. The earliest surviving nonfunctional objects come from the Paleolithic period, 30000 BC to 8000 BC. Comprised primarily of small stone sculptures and engraving on bones depicting stylized human figures and animals. The women figures are generally depicted as voluptuous and well rounded, clearly representing the Paleolithic female ideal. These early European artisans demonstrate remarkable sophistication and a wealth of talent. According to John W. Bradley, "The desire for decoration is probably as old as the human race. Nature, of course, is the source of beauty, and this natural beauty affects something within us which has or is the faculty of reproducing the cause of its emotion in a material form. Whether the reproduction be such as to appeal to the eye or the ear depends on the cast of the faculty. In a mild or elementary form, probably both casts of faculty exist in every animated creature, and especially in the human being."


The earliest paintings date back to 15000 BC. and can be found almost exclusively in caves located throughout France and Spain. The initial paintings were limited to primitive outlines of hands and crude, almost stick figure animals. Within a few thousand years the cave painters were creating sophisticated compositions and forms in vivid colors. The caves where the painting were found are dark, without any outside light source and had to illuminated with torches. This is suggestive of a sacred space where primordial magical or sacrificial rites were performed.
The Neolith (c. 5,000 - 1,500 BC) culture is characterized by small clay painted figurines, ceramic vessels and primitive weavings. The patterning on the objects is geometric and abstract. It was during this period that European man stopped roaming and took up the plow.

The Paleolithic period, or Old Stone Age, was the longest phase of human history. Prehistoric periods are divided into three parts: Paleolithic (c. 35,000 - 8,000 BC); Mesolithic (c. 8,000 - 3,500 BC); Neolithic (c. 5,000 - 1,500 BC). There is a huge diversity of techniques and art of such sophistication and aesthetic quality, that many of these pieces would fit right in a contemporary gallery

 

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References:  Illuminated Manuscripts by John William Bradley