Prehistoric Art

The beginning of western art

Prehistoric refers to the time before people learned to write.

Objects and images are the documents of this era

3 different periods

  1. Paleolithic era (old stone age) (40,000-10,000 BC)

little is known about Paleolithic society

ritualistic burial practices tell us about their religion

people were hunters and gatherers who lived in communities- language had been developed

-Art was based on food and fertility, not beauty and design

Sculpture: low (bas) relief, high relief, in the round (3D, like a doll)

EX- Venus of Willdendorf (30,000-15,000 BC) sculpture in the round 4 3/8 inches high

expressed fertility by large breast, torso, thighs. It is symbolic because it has no face

very famous, made of limestone but was not polished.

Probably carved by a trained artist. Symbolic of fertility and abundant food supply.

EX- Venus of Laussel (30,000-15,000 BC) sculpture in low relief 17 3/8 inches long

made of limestone. Symbolic. Has no face and large breast, torso, and thighs.

Hand holds a cornucopia (horn of plenty)

EX- Bison with a turned head carved from a rain-deer horn 4 1/8 inches high

naturalistic, exhibits movement

animals often represented in Paleolithic art: horses, bison, oxen

animals sometimes represented: deer, mammoth, antelope, bear, rhino, foxes, wolves, fish and birds.

Cave Paintings:

over 150 sites in Europe. The best are in southern France and northern Spain

caves were developed over hundreds of years

Why were cave paintings tied to rituals?

  1. location, deep inside a cave.
  2. spears and arrows in some animals, maybe magic trying to weaken animals.
  3. painting are disorganized on the walls and some overlap.
  4. all caves were located on a hill that overlooked a valley. From here cavemen could monitor the movement of animals in the valley below.

Most cave paintings that have been destroyed were in areas suffering from flooding

the cave paintings that have survived to today did so because of their location

the media and color was brown, black, yellow, or red clay or stone ground and mixed with a base of animal fat of blood.

EX- Altamira, Spain (15,00-10,000 BC) found in 1870 16 bison, 2 boars, and a deer

low ceiling with animals in shades of red, brown, and black

good examples are the standing bison and the wounded bison

EX- Lascaux, France (15,000-10,000 BC) found in 1941, closed to the public in 1963

one of the best sites, site of the Chinese horse and the unicorn

  1. Mesolithic era (10,000-8,000 BC)

transition period techniques of gathering food became more efficient

cultivation of plants likely, a more stable communal life replaced the nomadic lifestyle

EX- Ritual Dance rock engraving symbolized fertility

represents humans and animals as shapes, not stick figures.

Line and shape are used. The principle of movement is evident.

  1. Neolithic era (8,000-2,000 BC)

a new art form develops, monumental stone architecture megaliths

EX- Stonehenge Salsbury plain, southern England uses comlech

setting for religious services trilithon: a single post and lintel monument

uses the post (standing part) and lintel (part on top) design