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Dordogne Journal: Cave Paintings
After viewing the 17,000 year-old cave paintings in the Dordogne’s Grotte de Lascaux, Pablo Picasso is reported to have said, “We have invented nothing.”; “We have learned nothing in twelve thousand years.”
There are over two hundred caves with prehistoric paintings in France, mostly in the Dordogne Valley, and over one hundred in Spain. They date anywhere from 15,000 to 32,000 years ago. Unknown artists painted individual animals and groups of them: lions, bisons, reindeer, mammoths, bears, hyenas, aurochs, and creatures that seem to have been imagined. Occasionally the images seek to show the animals in motion. In addition to having a command of perspective, the artists also used the natural contours of cave walls to give depth and volume to their depictions.
Some of the paintings lie over a mile into deep limestone caves, as if the artists were seeking quiet, or fleeing the regard of others. Why did they paint? For religious reasons? To bring luck to the hunt? Or simply because they shared with us a human appreciation for beauty and a desire to create art?
The bison above was painted on the wall of the Font-de-Gaume cave (right), located outside Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil. Dated to 17,000 BC, Font-de-Gaume is one of the only polychrome painting sites that the public may still visit. The most famous paintings created with multiple materials are at Lascaux, but that cave is now closed to the public.
To stand at arm’s length from the work of an artist who painted by torchlight almost twenty millennia ago is a moving, humbling experience. Say what you want about the Cro-Magnons, but they weren’t just a bunch of neanderthals.
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
August 23, 2009
Fare Thee Well, Tom Crady
And now Dean Tom Crady has precipitously announced his departure from the College after only 20 months on the job. How to read this? By way of background, prior to coming to Dartmouth, Crady had…
May 31, 2009
Kangaroo Court, Indeed
In an interview with The Dartmouth, alumni-elected trustee T.J. Rodgers ‘70 explained his reasons for declining to participate in future evaluations of trustees up for “re-election,” namely the “kangaroo court” nature of such discussion in…