Simple Shapes

There were two things that struck me when I first saw the cave paintings in the Lascaux Caves. The first aspect of the paintings that grabbed my interest was the rendition of the animals as compared to the humans. I noticed that many of the humans were simple compared to the paintings of the animals. Curves and defining characteristics were given to identify each animal. Bulls had their horns and horses had manes, while the rare appearance of humans seemed to only convey a basic structure of a human.

            This close attention to the animals could point to a godly reverence towards nature. The detail given to the animals as compared to humans would seem to merit this conjecture. This seems to be characteristic of aboriginal tribes. In fact, I was reminded of some Native American art that I had been exposed to when I was first looked at the paintings in the Lascaux Caves.

I find it interesting that young cultures seem to show a propensity to first revere what they find around them rather than to look upon themselves. It is also interesting that detailed human caricatures only seem to begin to appear only when a culture becomes relatively advanced. The paintings in the Lascaux Caves seem to show a clear understanding of the animal form but the human form seems to be a concept too difficult to grasp, whereas in the arguably more advanced culture of the Egyptians we see relatively detailed pictograms of the human form in terms of hair, fingers, and facial features such as the eyes, the nose and the mouth.

The second aspect of the Lascaux Caves that I had found interesting also ties in with some contrasts that can be made between Egyptian art and the art found in the Lascaux Caves. When observing the art in the Lascaux Caves, I was particularly struck by the “fluidity” of the forms. As children, we are taught to reproduce simple shapes such as the square, the triangle and the circle; all relatively geometrical in nature. However, for a culture just beginning to learn art, these are not the shapes that come to mind for them. The art found in the Lascaux Caves are more smooth and fluid rather than angular such as would be found in Egyptian art. As a society we fail to realize that shapes we consider simple, such as the triangle and the square, are relatively “new” concepts to the art world. These geometric shapes seem to only begin to appear in art when a culture begins undertaking large construction projects.

I was also shocked at the relative skill of the paintings in the Lascaux Caves. Many of the drawings would be hard to reproduce for a regular modern person today. In fact, if a novice artist were to attempt to recreate these drawings, I believe they would struggle to even create a recognizable rendition of a deer with antlers that was on par with the cave drawings. This leads me to believe that this culture must have had some form of practice before these caves were realized.

The theory that I believe a regular modern day person would have trouble reproducing these drawings makes me wonder if our conditioning with geometric shapes such as triangles, squares and circles causes modern people to have difficulty reproducing the fluid-like drawings found in the Lascaux Caves. I think most modern people today are more adept at breaking an image down into simple geometric shapes rather than being able to reproduce the nature contours of the actual image in front of them. I find it fascinating looking at this juxtaposition between what a modern prospective of an image would be in comparison to a Neolithic prospective.

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