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It is difficult to interpret the true intentions of the various art pieces from the Prehistoric eras. And while reading about different theories, I think it is important to remember that they are just that: theories and not facts. With this in mind, I do like the idea that some art was used to teaching and communication, while some other art has been used for ritualistic intentions. The Pitt Rivers Museum writes, “Because art is a means of communicating human experiences, human bodies are naturally depicted.” I’m not too much of a fan about the Museum stating that art is just for communicating human experiences, because I think that art is broader than that, but it does make sense that human bodies would be depicted for this purpose. I do think that possibly some of the depictions of humans were for representing or even admiring the human form, especially those that were attractive. Like the Woman of Willendorf, this figurine seems to place emphasis on the more desirable attributes of a woman. Or possibly what was deemed as desired during that time. It wouldn’t surprise me if the figurine had some spiritual or ritual significance, representing a deity of sorts.
Although the cave paintings, such as the Lascaux Cave, seem to me to be more out of teaching purposes, such as story-telling or communication purposes.
In short, maybe humans started to depict the human form out of attraction, educational purposes, communication, or even for rituals. Maybe this was a way of exploring the human identity and what about us that makes us “human.”
I completely agree with you that it is a great challenge to try to comprehend the true intentions and purposes of prehistoric art. It is important to realize that any interpretations of the art is just that, interpretations and not facts. I do like your speculations on the figurines of women, especially the maternal component. Being that survival probably was of utter importance, and being fertile was sought for, the maternal components of women was probably valued. I love that you speculate that the caves may have been the first art museums, that gives them a sort of charm.
I like what you say about the cave art being used for communication purposes, and referring to the fact that there was no written language like we have today. That makes me think about hieroglyphics, and how these are basically images used for communication purposes. It is difficult to say just exactly what the purpose of the various art was, but I am sure that it was not just out of boredom. But what do I know? Maybe it was for pass-time storytelling, or teaching children and young adults about the environment around them.
Tate states, “the term [abstract] can be applied to art that is based an object, figure or landscape, where forms have been simplified or schematised.” I always thought that abstract art was something that is hard to define or interpret. I really like the definition that Tate gives, because they describe abstract art as something that was created with purpose and intention, something that represents various things such as virtues, morals, emotions, etc.
Looking over some Paleolithic art, such as the Lion-Human or the Chauvet Cave, I would think that in some sense prehistoric art can be abstract. Especially the cave paintings, as these seem to be simplified figures and objects that represents something of that time. Looking over the section of the horses in the Chauvet Cave, it looks abstract, but it seems to be telling the story of a aging horse. And this just might have been the purpose of many of the art pieces that we see from that era, to tell a story.
Now, I don’t think that all prehistoric art is abstract. Like the Neolithic Pottery or the Newgrange, these seem to have been created with intentions for use rather than for interpretation.
In short, to me it seems that some of the art from prehistoric times were used for story-telling while some of the art was created for uses in various rituals.
Thank you for your post! I love what you said about viewing art through a lens of our own experiences. This is so true, and art definitely is often times open for a viewers interpretation. Of course, it is very hard to know the true purpose of prehistoric art, since we can’t just ask the artists about their own creations to receive a meaning. I don’t think that all prehistoric art is abstract, but to some extent I do think that some of it actually is. Like the cave drawings or some of the carvings, since these are simplified representations of reality I would say that it is abstract art.
Thank you for your post!
Aubri – I do agree that I think the art in the Prehistoric wing does have a purpose of some sort. It seems as if they were created out of intention, and not just boredom. I have always thought that abstract art itself also has intention and purpose, although it may be interpreted by the viewer. The fact that the art in the Prehistoric wing does not always seem to be representational art with hyperrealistic features, such as the cave paintings, makes me think that maybe it is appropriate to coin the art as abstract.
Hello Gabe – that is cool that you are interested in spirituality. What type of spirituality have you looked in to? Lately I’ve been learning a lot about traditional Alaska Native spirituality, and it is super interesting! You seem to know quite a bit about art, I look forward to this class with you!
Hi Laura! That is so cool that you are studying from Germany. I haven’t been there, but I love Europe (at least the parts I have seen). Two majors seems super busy, and what an interesting combination! I look forward to this semester with you. 🙂
1. What is art?
“Art is an expression of our thoughts, emotions, intuitions, and desires, but it is even more personal than that: it’s about sharing the way we experience the world, which for many is an extension of personality” (Nieters, Philosophy Now).
I like this definition of art, because it highlights that art is personal. I strongly believe that art is a component of how an individual processed an experience or something that they have seen. It probably will have something to say about the artist as well as the object. Another thing that stood out to me in this definition is the word sharing. My favorite thing about art is that it can be shared with others, but even better the interpretations of art may say something completely different than the artist intended. This is very interesting to me.
“The fundamental difference between art and beauty is that art is about who has produced it, whereas beauty depends on who’s looking” (Leonardi, Philosophy Now). I somewhat agree with this explanation. What I don’t like about it is that it is somehow separating beauty and art. There is some truth to it though, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I think that beauty more so is a part of the process of creating art. The artist may notice beauty as an inspiration for creating art, and wish to interpret this beauty in some form of art to capture and keep it. Now, what is beautiful is subjective. This means that what the artist finds beautiful is not going to be interpreted the same by everyone.
2.What is Art History? Why do we study the history of art? How does it help us understand the world in which we live?
Art history is probably the study of art through history, and the impact that it has had in history. By studying the history of art and how it has changed over time, we can understand various components of the culture of a certain era or country and we can find inspiration and understanding for how art is made today. There are many mediums for art today, but realistically I don’t think there are too many genuine ideas. Most ideas for art have been remixed from previous ideas, and this is just how the brain works. But looking at how art has changed over time can help us understand a history from which we come and how we can best move forward.
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tdtoy – the definitions of art that you chose are very well formulated. I agree that art is not supposed to compete with natural beauty, and that the purpose of the two are incomparable. I also like your explanation of a suffering artists, this concept is often misunderstood. I agree that artists tend to see both the dark and light components of life and this is why they can create are that brings forth emotion.
abcreach – I love your definition of what art is. I agree, art is a wonderful way to express yourself. Also, it is interesting to see how art has changed throughout history! I am interested in reading the significance that art has had in history.