The Lascaux Caves and the Artists’ Intent

It is only natural in my opinion that the Lascaux people while agriculturally dependant, saw a great need in hunting the kinds of animals they depict in their wall paintings in the Lascaux caves and, therefore, felt compelled to praise that which for so long nourished them and lived among them. Whether the caves and subsequently the paintings that would come about over time done by different generations of people were meant as a worship sight or simply a place that offered an opportunity for storytelling and self-expression, they are nevertheless, a remarkable testament to the ancient history of art in France. The Lascaux caves have certainly impressed me not only in their antiquity but also because of their continuing of a similar hunting/animal theme that has been respected over generations and by different civilization.

While we know very little about the actual intent of these cave artists in painting what they did (horses, deer, and even a rhinoceros) and why they chose specific areas to depict different animals and stories, it is an adventure left to us, the contemporary “art historian”, to explore possible explanations for the nature and symbolism of these magnificent masterpieces that have survived so long and have remained nearly intact despite their “primitive” appearance. Their longevity also is a clue as to the material that was used to create them by what we would consider “uneducated” and “primitive” ancestors because of the “simplicity” of their artwork. Yet, it is clear that the material available to them not only stood the test of time but was also advanced enough to demonstrate important and even intricate art techniques such as perspective and movement within a painting. In the Great Hall of the Bulls, we can see the magnificent “movement” of four black bulls but also, we can admire the intricate detail given to the animal’s form which shows knowledge of perspective and proportionality which were concepts in art that were not even commonly understood or used until the 15th century. Therefore, it is once again remarkable and fortunate for us today, to have this ancient artistic reference to analyze and study realizing that important and developed art techniques were already being discovered and being used by people that worked in fields simply living to feed themselves. This goes to show that we are all capable of being artists if we are so moved to depict what we experience in our lives as well as the things that surround us that inspire us or contribute to our identity. It is my hope that we may do this so that future generations will have a better understanding of who we were, what influenced us, and what our stories were so that we are not forgotten, just like the Lascaux people remain alive for us as we continue to study and admire their cave paintings today.


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