Art history is part of the history of mankind indissolubly,no one can deny it! From time immemorial mankind has felt the need to communicate not just with his contemporaries but also with those who would come afterwards! Why? Where it comes from this irresistible urge to leave any traces of ourselves to others. Perhaps from the bitter awareness that we must leave this world sooneer or later,since we are mortal,and we know that art can survive beyond our short lives. Art speak about us,about history of mankind ,it always did and it always will,at least as long as human civilization will exists.
This post is the first one in a long line in which i will try to retrace art history(far from simple) in an impartial way and as simple as possible to try to make people understand about its important.
I said that art history is part of human civilization,but first of all we need to defining what it means,in fact what is art? Surely art is not confined to paint and drawing but includes all human activities(carried out both individually and in groups) that express creativity and ingenuity which are based technical foundations,inborn skills or acquired through study and experience. So,with that said, it can be asserted that art is an universal language able to convey emotions and messages. However there is no unique language,since during centuries the concept of art and its meaning has changed,or rather,has evolved in order to adapt itself to the changing times,to society,to religions and so on. In its deepest meaning, art could be defined as aesthetic expression of human soul and its innermost thoughts,of its feelings that are affected by the history changes(political,economic, religious) which change depending of historical epochs in which these artistic concepts are expressed! Going back to the past of several thousand years,at the dawn of civilization, we can discover the very first trace of art,the famous cave paintings,but also several rock engravings that homo sapies left as a sign of his presence in the caves but homo sapiens was the first artist or not? Human being is the first creature in this planet able to manipulate raw material,to give shape to their own thoughts and to adapt natural elements to their needs increasingly urgent. The latest discoveries and studies have debunked the myth about homo sapiens as first artist, since 65.000 years ago,in Spain,there was another hominid able to express artistic concepts and leave them to posterity,namely Neanderthal man! Therefore we weren’t the first artists,but our ancient cousins that 20.000 years before of homo sapiens discovered the immortal power of art! Naturally not everyone shares these new discoveries that would rewrite history of mankind and in fact would relegate in second place our kind as regards intellectual ability to express symbolic thoughts through pictures,carvings or small amulets (like shell pierced used as pedants). Have been found even the remains of mussels in which were mixed togheter pigments that were used to paint in cave walls.
These amazing finds have been the first palettes in art history; probably they were used to paint in caves that,in their turn,have become unknowingly the first “atelier” in history. In the photo below you can see one of paintings of Neanderthal discovered in Spain,painted by an ancient artist, precursor of all artist that would come afterwards.
Some scholars have speculated that these paintings had been painted during sacred rituals by shamans that swoon, due to low oxygen in the caves,and led by some kind of spirit,left such symbolic paintings on the rock walls.
Whoever it was to paint ,how on earth did it gets pigments? What colours did use those primitive Neanderthal artists? Surely they didn’t use colours on tubes that we know nowadays! Palette was rather limited but they used it in a really efficient way; red, yellow, ochre,black, white; these were pigments that were used by those prehistoric artists. Red could be created with ochre earth,yellow with hematite,white with gesso and marl, black with carbon but what was the binder? It may sound weird but simple water that gushed from rocks was rich in calcium and thus it was perfect to ensure adherence and duration in time of pigments…just a perfect combination with cooperation of Mother Nature. We came to the conclusion to the first part of the article,in the second we’ll see cave paintings of homo sapiens and how they have changed forever the destiny of our own kind and all over the planet.