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  • Stephen Shoel Wachtel

Cave Drawings: Prehistoric Artists

Updated: Oct 18, 2018


Prehistoric paintings can be found in a number of caves. Among the most notable are the Lascaux Caves in southern France which contain paintings estimated to be more than 17,000 years old, and the Chalet Cave, also in southern France, which contains paintings estimated to be 32,000 years old. Within these caves, one can find paintings of bulls, deer and horses. One of the bulls in the Lascaux complex is seventeen feet in length. My favorite cave is Altamira, found by a hunter in northern Spain in 1868. This is the first cave in which prehistoric paintings were discovered, but those paintings were believed initially to be fakes because of their quality. Their authenticity was finally accepted in 1902.

Pablo Picasso is said to have visited Altamira although there is no official record of his having done so. On leaving the cave, he is alleged to have said, “After Altamira, everything is decadence,” and, “None of us can paint like this.” I’m not sure about the decadence, but the artist(s) of Altamira were masters of their craft and I haven’t seen anything quite like their ochre, sienna and charcoal renditions come up in the last 10,000 years or so. 😇

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