Lascaux cave paintings have made Vezere valley in France a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1979. It is famous for the surrealistic images of animals that research reveals lived 15,000 years ago. They were part of the discovery made on 12 September, 1940. The caves were chanced upon by four teenagers, and their dog. After World War II, the site was opened to the general public. However, the increasing number of visitors resulted in an unprecedented release of carbon dioxide and visible damage to the paintings.
In 1963, the caves were officially closed to the public, with the intent of restoration and preservation of the art. Today, the Lascaux paintings are monitored regularly and the sites have been segregated on the basis of exhibit into:
- Great Hall of the Bulls
- Lateral Passage
- Shaft of the Dead Man
- Chamber of Engravings
- Painted Gallery
- Chamber of Felines
Lascaux II exhibits replication of the artwork depicted in Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery. Lascaux artwork can also be seen at Le Thot, Center of Prehistoric Art, France. Preservationists from the Archaeological Survey Department have been battling fungus and black mold since 2000. The climatic conditions within the caves are now monitored to preserve the exhibits.
Lascaux paintings are about 2,000 in all and while 600 of the animal figures can be identified, the rest are a trip back into prehistoric times. Geometric figures of equines, cattle, felines, birds, bears, rhinoceros, humans, and stags are dominant. The effect of the 'bulls in motion' give us an insight into the precision and dedication of the artists. The Paleolithic cave painters displayed unique perspective in the non-figurative images. The night sky depictions actually correlate with constellations. These 'visions' within paintings of humans and the sky also highlight the fact that the artists indulged in the ritual of trance-dancing.
These paintings are deduced as beyond 'decorations', since research reveals that they did not show any signs of prolonged habitation. This is indicative of the fact that the caves were used for preserving and transmitting information. Archaeological experts spotted realistic images superimposed for the 'stampede' effect. While the images appear linear, the sudden burst of colored and stylized detail speaks volumes for the versatility of brush and dynamic hand movement.
The primitive inhabitants immortalized their lifestyle, artwork, and crude tools via exquisite and exclusive renderings. Their hand at foreshortening, contrasting color schemes, and three-dimensional illusions brings many a modern painter to Lascaux each year. The paintings tell visitors a lot about the inhabitants of the era and the level of intellect through the fact that they used the cave walls to pass on vital information about animal and human life then.
Their sense of aesthetics and prevalent culture crosses all linguistic and social barriers, appealing to even the indifferent-to-art visitor to the caves. The ancient caves give us an idea of the painter's sanctuary for rites and ceremonies and some serious revelations about their hunting and group strategies. A visit to the site is an intense learning process full of opportunity for the painter to observe and replicate genius in transforming real time agility of the animal world on canvas.
These paintings offer the visitor an understanding of the development of intercultural communication between group hunters centuries ago. The walls display the versatility of the painter through preserved sophistication of hue and choice of location.