The paintings in the Lascaux caves are interesting because of their age and because of the innovations that the people painting them had to create in order to have time to paint and a means of creating their art. The paintings represent the creation of society, and the artifacts within the caves, such as jewelry made from shells, hint at the possibility that the people were involved in trade with other groups. By learning about the caves and the art within, we are able to travel back in time and look into the world of people who lived thousands of years ago.
The tools in the caves show that the people were not simply creating art for art’s sake, or drawing on the walls out of boredom. They spent time finding pigments and developing lanterns so that they could travel farther into the cave where sunlight did not reach. They also found ways to spray the paint onto the walls, rather than painting with brushes. The art itself shows that they had developed techniques to better represent the animals in their paintings. For example, a picture of two bulls walking away from one another shows a slight separation in the paint where the two animals join so that one looks as though it is behind the other. The same technique is used to paint limbs that are represented in the background. The legs that are facing out from the painting are painted with dark strokes and the legs that are far away use lighter strokes.
The paintings show that the groups living in the caves had been able to form enough of a society that they had time for art. They had enough food, clothing, and shelter that it was not necessary for each person to spend his or her time hunting and gathering. One of the most interesting discoveries in the cave is the evidence that the people built scaffolds so that they could reach higher areas on the cave walls and create larger paintings. The scaffolding shows that the people were not nomadic because they took the time to build permanent structures. They would have had to spend time cutting the wood and then fashioning it into a sturdy platform that could withstand the painters standing and walking. Their ability to spend time building the scaffolding and then using it to create large works of art represents settlement. They were not traveling with the herds of animals, but were resting in one spot for a long period of time.
Another symbol of society is the evidence of shells that would have been found on the coast hundreds of miles away. This discovery represents either a form of trade between groups of people, or the people’s ability to travel hundreds of miles to gather the shells themselves. If the shells are evidence of trade, then it was not just this group of people who had become organized enough to have a society. Other groups were able to create jewelry rather than just protective clothing and were able to gather shells rather than just food.
Learning about the Lascaux Caves has been interesting because the paintings are much more complex than they look. There are many factors that went into creating the works of art in the cave, and those factors give rise to questions about the society in which the people lived. The caves also give rise to the questions about why the people would create the works of art, and what the art meant to them. The caves are a good introduction into French art because they give insight to how art represents a society.