The Lascaux Caves: A Natural Connection

Nik Pontasch / Dr. Sarah Jane Murray / French Art & Architecture / 18 January 2011

The creation of artwork is suggestive of a convenience of lifestyle which does not require one’s complete attention to the necessities of sustaining life.  Through technological advances, humankind has opened the door to all sorts of complex thinking by granting individuals great amounts of time to think and act freely – to such an extent that these “necessities of life” are taken for granted almost completely unwittingly.  Yet, regardless of all of the difficulties associated with ancient life, the Lascaux painters were still able to create something important and lasting to their culture.

Displaying forms of depth and perspective in their various depictions, the artists of the Lascaux caves exhibit a skillfulness that is quite advanced for such an ancient culture.  Compared with the rather unrealistic proportions typical of Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine empire artwork and iconography some 15,000+ years later, the Lascaux caves seem to be extremely far ahead of their time considering the limited time and resources at their disposal.

Even as artistic techniques have changed and improved significantly since the times of the Lascaux cave drawings, the notion of artwork as a form of preservation of an idea or ideal remains.  With this in mind, the Lascaux paintings, comprised mainly of various depictions of animals, seem to serve as a reminder of the interaction between man and the world around him, or, more specifically, a reverential communing with nature – that which sustains him (an idea with many religious implications, well-proven by the explosion of Christian art throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, for example).

Additionally, though one might deem the drawings as simple or primitive, it is this same simplicity and primitiveness which modernity may be sorely lacking.  A quick glance at the numerous drawings reveals that the Lascaux artists felt a strong connection to animals, and perhaps more generally, nature.  A quick glance at certain collections of modern art would show a focus on abstraction, the inanimate, and in many cases, an attempt to return to simplicity of expression.  The “primitive” simplicity of the Lascaux drawings points to a kinship and a respect that seemingly existed more strongly between nature and humans of the past.  Considering the artificial spaces which humanity has invented and created to shelter (and perhaps cage) itself in today, it follows that a respect for nature and the natural has also departed (a fact proved daily by mass deforestation, pollution, and other environmentally harmful effects caused by humans).

Though ancient, the Lascaux caves speak of a time and place in human history which is not so different from modern day; one that invites us to gaze into the distant past and examine ourselves in light of our origins.

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