Paleolithic (Old Stone Age Art), ca. 30,000-9,000 BCE

     There seems to have been a surge of human creativity some 30, 000 years ago. Most of the carved and painted art of this era were predominately of animals or women. Two famous artworks of this period are the Venus of Willendorf (28,000-25,000 BCE) and the Hall of Bulls (15,000-13,000 BCE).      

        The Venus of Willendorf is a four and a half inch limestone carved statue of a nude woman. She was discovered at her findspot in Austria. Her breasts, belly, and buttocks are very exaggerated, while here arms are very tiny and she has no feet. The people of this period in history were very enamered with the female’s reproductive capabilities and this is expressed through art. Today we see much of the same expression of the human psyche through paintings and sculptures and more.

        There are some different theories surrounding this Venus or Woman of Willendorf. Some experts believe she is depicted as the Greco-Roman goddess of love and beauty who is also depicted nude, thus the name Venus. Others believe the people of this paleolithic period did not have any deities of any kind. We may never really know what the artists real motivations were except that he certainly was preoccupied with the female form, specifically the reproductive parts. Without the science we have today, these people knew women were vital to human pro-creation and human existence.

         The Hall of the Bulls (15,000-13,000 BCE) is an exrtraordinary feat and very beautiful. This ancient cave painting in Lascaux, France is 11′ 6″ long and depicts several different animals including bulls which appear to be the largest in the painting.Some of the animals are outline only while others are completely colored in. I think this really adds a depth to the painting.

          From the time this remote cave was discovered until now, there has been much debate over the purpose and reason the artist or artists created this painting. Some theories surrounding The Hall of Bulls are : mere decoration, hunters believed the images brought the animals under their control, rituals and dances were performed in front of these images to improve their hunting luck, the images served as teaching tools for hunters, the animals were depicted to ensure , magically, survival of herds for food and clothing, animal ancestors were depicted. The list  could go on of all the theories of why these paleolithic people created this beautiful cave painting, but will never know for certain since there are no written documents from this period.

          TheVenus of Willendorf and the Hall of Bulls are two of the most important artworks from this old stone age era, but certainly not the only works. There are many more paintings, sculptures, and reliefs to enjoy and learn from. I personally believe men and women have always had artistic creativity within them, so I am not surprised by these beautiful works of art and expression some 30,000 years ago. If we look around at nature and all of creation how could man not be inspired to express what he sees and feels.


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