How Everything started: Prehistoric painting

Prehistoric painting??


There are many interesting surprises about our ancestors and here today we will discover the first steps in the painting evolution!

Let’s start!

How Everything started: Prehistoric painting

To start our journey in the visual art we need to go back when everything started: the prehistoric era

I know, I know, you are thinking this is reaaally far and you cannot think to a lot of “great” masterpieces back then. Probably you are right if we assume our “modern” idea of painting (or fresco), but once again we need to consider the context…

We are in the Upper Paleolithic, around 40,000 BC. There was not written language, the society was a hunter-gatherer economy. And there was no knowledge of science or even why the most common events were happening!

Inside this scenario we can easily understand how the survival elements were vital for our ancestors. That’s why, in a hunter-gatherer based society, animals were so important to be represented in the first cave paintings.


Caves were a natural shelter and, probably, places with a mystic meaning. Not exposed to the external environment, their ceilings and walls were perfect locations to draw (reason why we often talk about parietal art) animal figures that are still a mystery about their deep meaning.

There are different interpretations about this choice, but probably is related to a hunting-magic meaning to increase the abundance of prey.

What is really interesting is that the most common subjects in cave paintings are large wild animals, such as bisons, horses, aurochs and deer. Followed by tracings of human hands as well as abstract patterns. However, drawings of humans are really rare! And what it is more surprising is that the layout is common in completely different cultures very far from the each other!

From the first

For example this is possible the oldest known figurative art painting, from over 40,000 (perhaps as old as 52,000) years old, of an unknown animal, in the cave of Lubang Jeriji Saléh in Indonesia.

Cave painting in Lubang Jeriji Saléh in Indonesia

And this is a section of one of the most famous cave paintings in the World: Altamira in Spain (around 36,000 years ago)

Altamira Cave in Spain
Large animals

Large animals were the main subjects in the prehistoric paintings. Altamira is just an example of the around 400 art-filled caves discovered so far. Predominately they are located in France and Spain.

It is amazing to obeserve how the attention to these large animals was so important even in such distant populations.

The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in France is a cave that contains some of the best-preserved figurative cave paintings in the World. Discovered in 1994, it is one of the most significant prehistoric painting art sites. Reason why UNESCO granted it World Heritage status in 2014.

Chauvet Cave, prehistoric painting in France: rhynos detail

Another Unesco site is Lascaux Cave in France: in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1979. It is an amazing example of parietal art with more than 600 figures estimated at around 17,000 years ago.

prehistoric painting: Lascaux Cave in France with bulls close view
Why painting?

Studying styles, pigments and techniques, researchers have discovered that the paintings have been drawn by a wide range of skills and ages in many generations. That proves, not only the importance of this “primeval” art in the societies, but also the need to communicate something and leave a cultural heritage like any other “modern” artist. It was the first visual language that helped many generations to convey a message.

I hope you enjoyed the post! Watch the video post on my YouTube channel to learn more about the prehistoric paintings and remember to share it. See you soon!

Watch the video!

Watch my video to discover more on prehistoric paintings with graphic effects and interesting details!

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