Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats



Prehistoric Art that Made the World Think Again

The first masterpieces of painting



... suddenly we found a hole. We moved a few stones to make the opening wider. And, because I was the strongest, I was the first to climb down into the darkness. I was afraid to start with, because you never know what's lurking in a cave. But my burning curiosity overcame my fear of the unknown.

Still my heart was beating furiously. I slipped, tried to hold on to some stones but slid downwards several metres. And then, when I finally came to the bottom, I was amazed to see the strangest pictures on the walls.

Eyewitness report by one of the four boys who discovered the Lascaux Caves in 1940



A journey into the past; The entrance to the Lascaux Caves, 1940.
Marcel Ravidat and Jacques Marsal, two of the boys who discovered the caves, are pictured m the middle



The Lascaux Caves were discovered purely by chance. On 12 September 1940 four boys were roaming through the woods above Montignac in the Vezere Valley, when suddenly their little dog disappeared in front of them. Terrified, they ran to the spot where he had been and discovered a small crevice in the ground — thus began the adventure related above.

Caves were the first type of permanent housing for human beings, when they were still active as hunters and gatherers at the dawn of history. Around 15,000 ВС, several groups seem to have settled near each other in the south-western region of Dordogne in France. In nearly zoo caves, prehistoric remains have been discovered. Due to the unusual atmospheric conditions present in these caves, an astonishing number of palaeolithic paintings have been preserved in excellent condition.

The discovery made by the four boys affected the history of art as nothing had ever done before. In the Lascaux Caves, which are about 100 metres long, more than 1,500 palaeolithic incised drawings and roughly 600 realistic paintings — of bison, stag, ox and other animals — were discovered. Nowhere else have so many prehistoric pictures been found preserved in one place. Researchers assume that for about 5,000 years people have inhabited these caves, painting the walls over and over again — ultimately leaving; behind a "prehistoric art museum".

Some of these pictures are extremely large: the walls of the biggest cavern (The Great Hall) is decorated with some bulls measuring five metres in length. Unique in their vitality and remarkable in the skill with which they were executed, these pictures dramatically changed our view of art history. Until well into the nineteenth century, it was thought that art had developed gradually and in stages over time, similar to the way a child's art develops — from awkward beginnings to more polished forms. In fact, when the first cave paintings were discovered in 1879 at Altamira in northern Spain, they were regarded as fakes. Further discoveries, above all the paintings at Lascaux, removed all doubts: as early as 15,000 BC painting was already a "fine art".

The Great Hall
c.15,330-15,050 BC
Lascaux Caves, France


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