Jean-Marie Chauvet and other speleologues discovered the Caves in 1994. They have never been opened to the public. They did not want to repeat the same mistakes as the Lascaux Caves. The Lascaux Caves were open to the public for years till they were closed in 1963 to preserve their Art. The Art was being damaged by fungus. The cave was recreated at 90% close by.
Need to create, communicate, tell a story -
This is an extract of the Hall of the Bulls. You can observe red and black horses painted with a large auroch (bull species).The artist played with dark and light as well as dots to make him stand out from the bull and the other horses. The artists used charcoals from their fires and earth pigments of iron and manganese to create the colors. Why do you think they were not erased during all these years? One of the bull is 17 feet long (5 meters).
The upper part of the walls and the ceilings of the Lascaux Caves are all painted. Visitors could see mostly oxen, horses, and bisons. One of the most famous painting are the Chinese horses, represented here surrounded by red cows.Look at how the painting of the cow is not finished. Look at the details of the horse mane. Caveman are always presented as being primitive but their motor skills were developped when you look at this paintings.
What does this say about the relationship then between the man and the buffalo? .Humans are rarely represented in the caves.You can see the dots and lines: this sign is often represented in the cave, can it be the artist’s signature? Can they be numbers?Compare the quality of the animals drawings and the human drawing.The location of this painting is well hidden in the cave: forbidden art?
There are three reindeers who are swimming. They can not be found in the Southern France right now but they were living there at that time. Here we can see a detail of one the reindeers. What do you think of the lines and the details? It appears to have been drawn quickly compared to the other paintings. The painting is 10 feet from the floor.
Something characteristic to the Lascaux Art is the notion of movement that the artist gives to his drawing. You can really imagine the horse running. Are these signs harpoons or plants? Notice that flowers and plants, as well as grounds are not represented in the cave art.
The animals in the Chauvet caves are mainly horses, rhinos, bears, mammoth, stags, and even an owl.One animal, a bison, is made out of dots, precursor of the pointillism. They also use perspective and shading. This panel of horses actually shows some perspective, showing some animals on the same plane. They used smudging to produce the shadows and somebody who entered the cave said that the artist had highlighted the outer edge of the drawing by chiseling into the white rock surface.
This is an auroch. The drawing looks like it has been done on top of another drawing or sketching. The auroch was bigger than our bull and disappeared in the XVIIth century. That’s when you realize that their art is the photograph book of their time.
. You can actually see the horses and now we have the rhinos charging each other. Rhinos facing each other is unique in paleolithic art. We can also tell that artists were not equal already then. Different degree of mastering the techniques.
Here you can see a bear. The artists did not live in the caves, but the bears did. The traces on the wall may have been left by bear paws. The bear lived there in winter and the humans came in the summer.
Carving - one of an owl also exists in the cave. You can actually see the white rock underneath. The carving is less detailed than the painting. They used silex to carve.
The owl can only be found in Chauvet.
“The Panther Panel” - Chauvet Cave, bear outline (top), hyena. Again, not all artists have equal talent.
“The Panther Panel” - Chauvet Cave,
This is a stencil of a hand. A similar technique was found in Argentina, in las Cuevas de las Manos where hundreds of hands stencils were found in a cave (9000 BC). This is called ‘negative’ hand stencil: they put their hand on the wall, and then blow some paint on their hand, leaving some painting on the wall and the white handprint.
Pech Merle is in the Midi-Pyrenees and is one of the few prehistoric cave paintings that are still open to thepublic. Look how they take advantage of the natural shape of the rock to create the head.
Altamira is considered the :Sistine Chapel of paleolithic art. Compare this auroch to the aurochs you saw and appreciate the difference in details. This auroch was painted on a ceiling.
Lascaux Cave Art
A Journey in Prehistoric Art of
the Lascaux and
Chauvet Caves of Southern
France, and others…
Where are the caves? How were
they discovered and when?
• And…there are other places in the world where painted caves exist!
• Like Spain, South America, Australia, etc…
• Lived approx.
ago during the
Stone age and
the Ice age
How did they create the images?
• Using bone, sticks, brush
made with animal hair,
• Paints came from the earth
- crushed and mixed with
cave water to create color
• Dark caverns were lit with
torches and prehistoric
lamps: made with animal
fat, etc etc
• In Lascaux, scaffolds and
ladders were built to get to
the high points.
What did the artists paint?
• Why did they
paint and carve
on the cave
• Did they live in
the caves also?
• What evidence of
human life do we
see in the caves?
What is the significance?
• What is represented in
• Why are there so few
images of humans?
• How does this artwork
reflect life of