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Art is in our DNA

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Let's go back to prehistory for art history today. The Dordogne region in France is home to some really awesome cave drawings dating from between 12,000 and 18,000 years old.

This drawing is from the Lascaux cave, discovered by some adventurous teenagers out hiking in 1940…Exactly zero hikes in my life have been that interesting. The Lascaux originals are closed off to tourists now but you can see well-done replicas.

But this one is from Rouffignac. There a limited number of daily visitors can still see the original drawings. It takes a small electric train almost an hour to get to them. You can stand while gawking at the drawings now, but when they were made the passageway was so low that the artists drew while sitting or lying on their backs. Most of the animals depicted are majestic, imposing or graceful. The drawings use perspective really well and use the texture of the rock for shading. They’re pretty amazing.

My love of drawing started when I was a kid. It’s an instinct that seems universal since almost all children experience a drawing phase. Sadly, most will grow out of it. But thinking about that, I imagine these unknown artists as they crawled through a mile or more of cave tunnels dragging supplies with them. Way back in those dark places they drew pictures by the glow of firelight, apparently improving their skill with time and practice. In an era when our ancestors spent most of their waking hours just meeting the needs of survival, time away from survival to draw is astounding. Whatever impulse drives us to create images, something almost every child does down to this day, it has been part of our nature for a very long time.

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