Palaeolithic Art, Part II

Had these early artists a purely practical aim? Or were they inspired by a true creative impulse? “This conflict” writes Jacquetta Hawkes, “exists only in the mind of the disputants.”

The limitations of palaeolithic art are most apparent in its subject matter. Enough examples have already been quoted to emphasize the familiar fact that the Franco-Cantabrian school was predominantly concerned to make portraits of single animals in a style of heightened realism. Scenes or pictorial compositions were very rare; human beings were seldom portrayed, in painting almost never. In both these things Franco-Cantabrian art contrasts with the East Spanish paintings where men and women were often depicted and scenes of hunting and ceremonial were favourite subjects.

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