Art History for Kids

Posts Tagged ‘art education

Class Lesson: Friday, November 21, 2008

In the beginning, there were no words, no alphabet, no books. Yet, early cave men found a way to communicate their hopes, their dreams and their victories. So, how do you think they did this? They told stories using art.

Cave PaintingsĀ from Spain and France

The very first cave paintings were discovered in 1896 in the Altamira Cave in Santander, Spain. These paintings dated back to 14,000 BC and showed bison over 8′ long! This particular painting is called the Bisons of the Altamira Cave.

Later, archeologists discovered the paintings in the Hall of Bulls Cave in Lascaux, France. What was so interesting about this find was thatĀ  it showed so many different kinds of animals. Why do you think this is so? I will give you a hint: they were painted at different times. Now, why do you think there are so many different animals? That’s right! They are from different times. Each group of animals likely represents a hunt that was performed at a different time. It would seem as though they used this cave over and over again for artwork, with many different artists taking turns.

The Very First Artists in the World

What is even more interesting is that a very long time ago, when cave men were alive, only a few very special people were allowed to create art. They were called Shaman or hunter-magicians. Early cave men believed that if they drew an animal on a wall, they would capture its spirit and the Shaman would be able to control the success of the hunt.

So, if they drew bison on a wall, what animal do you think the Shaman were trying to control with their art? That’s right! In the Altamira Cave from Spain, they were trying to control bison. But, in the cave paintings from the Hall of the Bulls, what animal do you think they were trying to control? I’ll give you a hint: the name of the Cave is Hall of the Bulls. That’s right! They were probably trying to control bulls and ensure the hunters a good hunt.

Cave Man’s First Signature

Of all the cave paintings that were found, my favorite is the one from the Pech-Merle Cave in Lot, France from 14,000 BC. In this particular painting, you see a spotted horse with a negative hand imprint next to it. Since early cave men did not have words or an alphabet or language, this is probable their very first expression of identity or how they wrote their signature next to their artwork. Some believe that these first handprints may have inspired the development of written language at a later date.

Another is of this early painting of man from the Hall of the Bulls in Lauscaux, France. In this particular painting we see a man with a face of a bird. This could be the depiction of the Shaman himself. If early Shaman believed that there was a special spirit that protected them, what animal spirit do you think was protecting this one? That’s right! It probably was a bird.











Early Art Tools

When early cave men artists or Shaman first created art, there was no such thing as paint or brushes or canvas. They had to work with what they could find. They used the cave walls instead of paper or canvas, twigs or leaves as brushes and different types of dirt and berries for paint.








Today’s Lesson

Today you are all going to pretend to be Shaman, hunter-magicians. We are going to go on a nature walk to collect sticks, twigs and leaves then bring them back here to paint with them onto our cave walls. Now, since we don’t exactly have cave walls, we will be using the inside of brown paper bags. And, you will be signing your work with a handprint.

Since we are not cave men or hunters, the animal we will choose to draw today can be one that you have seen at the zoo. Pick an animal that you like or one that you think is particularly magical to you and we will create a cave painting so that you can magically control it for one day! Choose carefully and think about your animal as you are searching for painting tools. If it’s spiky, you’ll want a twig to paint the spikes or horns. If it’s furry, maybe you’ll want some soft leaves to paint the fur. There’s no wrong way to do it, so just remember to have fun!

After we get back from the nature walk, you will each work at your group tables and I will come around and help you while you are creating your masterpiece! This is supposed to be fun, so be as creative with your painting as you like!


Cave Painting Art Book List

If your child really enjoyed this particular lesson, here are some additional books that you can buy or check out from the library.

Just click on the link below.

The Usborne Story of Painting: Cave Painting to Modern Art (Fine Art Series)

Cave Paintings to Picasso: The Inside Scoop on 50 Art Masterpieces

Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up (500 Places)

Geology Rocks!: 50 Hands-On Activities to Explore the Earth (Kaleidoscope Kids)

Archaeology for Kids: Uncovering the Mysteries of Our Past, 25 Activities (For Kids series)


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