Shared Flashcard Set


Paleolithic Art
14-29; 522-4; 450-1; 492-3; 1044-5
Art History
12th Grade

Additional Art History Flashcards




Pre-historic Art: General Info
  • Canons: controversial, biased, but can be helpful for building common knowlege 
  • Concept of art having a history 1500 in Europe; ~6th century in China
  •  Earliest surviving art = N. Spain, S. France (Altamira and Lascaux) 

  • Ice age: seas rose filling caves previously above the waterline – Climate changes (example: entrance of the caves at Cosquer)

  • Important figures: Marcelino Sanz de Sautola; daughter, exploring in backyard and found entrance to the caves.

  • Stylistic Elements: Profile, twisted perspective, modeling (Chinese Horse only, essentially using light to make 3 dimensions), almost no humans depicted (exception: Lascaux), silhouette technique (spotted horses, handprints). Descriptive rather than visually accurate


Altamira bisons 




Altamira, Spain

Media – red or yellow ochre mixed w/ animal fat

Not oldest, 1st to be discovered

Marcelino Sanz de Sautola; daughter Maria exploring property, found entrance to cave

Thought at first they were forgeries; didn’t believe prehistoric humans could create such sophisticated drawings.

1900, confirmed as originals (important later to inspiration w/ 20th c. art)

No common ground line, overhead perspective and profile

Not seeking visual accuracy, but representational value


Spotted Horses and Negative Handprints 



Pech-Merle, France

ca. 23,000-22,000 BCE

Unknown meaning; some think horses and handprints are "signatures" of community members or painters 

Uses blowpipe technique (paint blown through tubes, against hand to create a negative image)

Compare to: Chinese Horses, (uses blowing technique in conjunction with outlining)

Typical portrayal of animals 


Hall of the Bulls



c. (15,000-13,000)

Lascaux, France 

Paintings are deep in the caves – significant to PURPOSE: not public, but perhaps decorative/religious, private

Almost exclusively animals, not often animals that herd together – not a “scene” or something the eye could see, more of an idea

Painted individually and at differing times

use both outline and silhouette techniques 



Chinese Horse



ca. (15,000-13,000)

Lascaux, France

Unique for its combination of silhouette/outline painting

Modeling – using light and shade to create 3 dimensions (assuming too much?)

Arrows: hunting for hide? Could be used to instruct how to hunt? Religious – sacrifice? We don't know.

Media – red or yellow ochre mixed w/ animal fat on a large flat stone, applied w/ reed/bristle brushes, silhouettes blown via blowpipes

Canvas = cave wall, often smoothed by scraping; adapt the subject matter

When discovered in the 19th century, believed to be created for aesthetic reasons, dismissed (reflects 19th century styles more than anything).


Rhinoceros, wounded man and disemboweled bisons, painting in the well



ca. 15,000-13,000

Lascaux, France

Painted DEEP inside the Lascaux caves (inside an obscure well)

Bull's anger — aggression toward man (horns, entrails)

Staff w/ duck top = indicates witch doctor, perhaps

Erect Penis used to identify male 

Dawn of art coincides with the dawn of humankind itself

2 different kinds of humans competing – Cromagmen vs. Neanderthals

We are because we create art, paintings of us putting our stamp on the world


Chauvet, Three-tusked mammoth 



ca. (30,000-28,000) oldest cave paintings

discovered 1994

departure from stylistic traits – TRUE PROFILE wrt horns, etc. not twisted perspective More accurate representation – provides a more complete view 

twisted perspective (omitted here, descriptive/optically realistic)

STILL, more interested in the IDEA of the thing vs. the thing itself

Carbon 14 used to date – measures amount of decayed carbon




Human with a Feline Head




from Hohlenstein-Stadel, Germany


Older than the majority of cave paintings

Carved from mammoth tusk

Considered unusually large for the time period

Unusual—no animal/human combinations at the time

Penis, male


Venus of Willendorf


Willendorf, Austria

ca. (28,000-25,000)

Another exception; only 5-10% of art from this time depicts humans

Exaggerated qualities:

hair texture or hat texture

boobs, belly, pubic area

BUT other parts are lost to fertility:

Arms/legs shrunken

Sophisticated given the absence of tools


Bison, clay relief



Tuc d'Audoubert, France


additive vs. subtractive relief: additive (like this one) stands out from a background; clay placed on top of rock

            Not self-standing


            Uusually large, two feet

            incised outlines

Unusual for creating something by adding clay to clay



Bison with turned head



La Madeleine, France

ca. (12,000)

Subtractive: sculpt away at something

Conceptual vs. Descriptive

Creative use of the material (Reindeer antler); adapting the subject material to the media available

Picked a pose that allows us to see all the important features (e.g. face bent back) so it is recognizable


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