Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Field Notes: Cave Paintings

from the website: http://www.oddee.com/item_93915.aspx
from the website: http://www.oddee.com/item_93915.aspx

This week's assignment involved the evolution of writing, from pre-historic times through illuminated manuscripts.  This entry will focus on the cave paintings or pictographs that I found in my wanderings.  For a more detailed description of pictographs, please see my previous blog entry.

I thought the pictographs, especially the ones from Lascaux and Chauvet Caves in Southern France, were beautiful.  

I loved the repeated cats drawn over one another (top, Chauvet Caves).  Even though the different sizes and overlapping indicates that they were done at different times and were not meant to be artistic, the forms are organic and create an interesting and intriguing pattern.  They look like cats to me, but some experts think they may be bears. 

The bright hues and striking contrasting blacks of the Lascaux Caves' paintings (bottom) were incredible.   I think I am used to seeing pictographs that were painted in areas where they interacted with the weather and faded; 
I can easily imagine that all pictographs were more colorful than we see now.

I can also see why Victoria Finlay chose to start her book, Color: A Natural History of the Palette, here in these caves.  I read this book this summer and it was very interesting to see the caves she described, as well as remember the process of how the pigment was made and applied.  The color is so rich that it is easy to see why the peoples who painted these were drawn to them: the different shades of earth that created the reds and golds, the black charcoal.  Even if it wasn't to make the drawings pretty, I think that these people must have noticed the eye-popping contrast.

One of my favorite cave drawings was this yellow horse in Lascaux:

from the website: http://www.oddee.com/item_93915.aspx
because it reminded me very, very much of one of my favorite artists, Franz Marc, who died during World War I (below).  I liked how two artists, thousands of years apart, could be so similar.

from the website: www.franzmarc.com
Lastly, I really liked "avocational archaeologist" Donald Austin's website, http://www.petroglyphs.us/index.htm.  One of the things he showed was "enhanced" cave paintings where using digital image processing, they bring out much of the design that has faded.  It made it much easier to see some of these fragile images and understand them better.

Unenhanced Pictograph from Painted Rock, CA 
Enhanced version of above pictograph

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