CAVE ART by Dr. Jean Clottes
How far have we come in the world of art? How did we reach a display of animals suspended in formaldehyde? What are the roots of our fascination with the representation of the real world through symbols? It is surely this explosion of symbolic thought and the beginning of modern man's creativity that we must investigate, and who better to do so than one of France’s most eminent prehistorians Dr. Jean Clottes. CAVE ART, recently published by Phaidon, is an accessible yet definitive introduction to prehistoric art, using European Palaeolithic art during the Ice Age as its platform from which to explore the global phenomenon of rock art. With clinical precision, CAVE ART lays out the salient items for consideration. "I wanted to write a book on cave art with as much information as possible, but in the simplest possible form," states Jean Clottes. "It is directed towards people who know nothing about this, as well as to specialists". And there in lies its beauty. The artworks, presented with unparalleled quality, range from spectacular cave paintings to small, delicate sculptures, representing works from key sites such as Chauvet, Lascaux and Niaux in France, as well as less-known locations. CAVE ART provides an explanation of who the artists were - 'our direct ancestors'. 'Cro-Magnons....were people like us,with the same brain, physical appearance, nervous system and cognitive abilities'. It considers what art is, using the Blombos haematite stone as the earliest possible art object attributable to modern humans. It presents the temporal context with a clear chronology, explaining the differences between the Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian cultures, and how these cultures created the art in an uneven geographical distribution. CAVE ART then explores the techniques, the themes, the possible meanings and the numerous interpretations, establishing that 'even if none of [the] hypotheses can be accepted in their entirety, each still played a part in bringing about a better understanding of Palaeolithic art'. After a long and full career of academic and objective examination, in CAVE ART Jean Clottes creates a compelling and highly-plausible picture of an overall belief system which persisted with little change for over twenty millennia, ending only when the Ice Age finally drew to a close.
The discovery of prehistoric decorated caves in western Europe transformed the way we think about the development of art. The earliest known evidence of human artistic endeavour, the awe-inspiring paintings, dramatic engravings and small, delicate sculptures of animals and humans found in these caves still hold a unique power and fascination, more than a century after they were first discovered. In this book, internationally renowned expert on prehistoric art Jean Clottes explores the origins of art and creativity. He takes the reader on a guided tour of 85 caves and rock shelters, many of which are not open to the public, revealing the extraordinary beauty of the works of art within them. Cave Art features more than 300 works from the Palaeolithic period, made between 35,000 and 11,000 years ago, presented in geographical and chronological order.This comprehensive, accessible introduction to prehistoric art includes such spectacular works as the famous horses of Lascaux, the bison in the Altamira cave in Spain and the ivory carving of a woman's face found at Brassempouy in the south of France, as well as examples from less well-known sites. While most of the caves described in the book are European, Cave Art also includes examples of open-air rock art made after the last ice age at sites around the world. Each work in Cave Art is illustrated by a colour photograph, and accompanied by a clear, vivid explanatory text. The book also includes a chronology, maps of the main caves and sites, a glossary and a list of sites that can be visited. With an unparalleled selection of images, Cave Art offers a unique guided tour of the earliest expressions of human creativity.