Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Museum Exhibit: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum, Chicago

I'm a big fan of art and history that's 2,000 years or older, so when I heard about the Lascaux cave paintings exhibit at the Field Museum, I was thrilled. I've been begging R to take me to Lascaux for years, as it's only a 4 hour drive from his hometown. Hopefully that trip will happen the next time we are in France...

Lascaux is a city in western France that became famous in the 1940s upon the discovery of Paleolithic cave paintings. The paintings and engravings are vastly important for art history because they're considered to be some of the earliest artworks created by mankind. Around 15,000 years ago when the paintings were made, humans were beginning to view and understand the surrounding world in a different manner than before; the paintings are a testament to the development of intellect and complex thought, and mastery of artistic practices such as representation and abstraction.  Animals like bison, mammoths, bears, wolves, and lions, among others, are depicted in the cave in twisted perspective, with their heads rendered in profile but other body parts, such as antlers or horns, appearing full-on. Because of the absence of natural light, the paintings could have only been viewed (and created) via fire--a pretty astounding way to view this art. Fire's movement would mean the paintings would look as if they were moving, dynamic components of the cave. Pretty cool. 

Today, a replica cave in Lascaux is the nearest you'll get to the paintings. The fragility and age of the paintings mean that any exposure to humidity, breathing, and humans could severely and irrevocably damage this priceless site. Fortunately, for those who cannot travel to France, the Field Museum has created a replica of the Lascaux cave, art and all. The exhibit has gotten decent reviews, and I fully intend on seeing it the next time I'm in Chicago. It's an art historian's dream, after all.

Here is a link to the Field Museum's Lascaux exhibit. 

Here is a link to a photo gallery of the Lascaux paintings, compliments of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

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