CHAUVET

The discovery of Chauvet in 1994 smashed the accepted concept that cave painting had evolved from rude marks to fine art along the millennia. Before Chauvet, we used to think technique peaked around 15,000 BP, in the Magdalenian. Chauvet, however, is some 30,000 years old, as old to the Magdalenian people as their paintings are to us. And the skill of the hands that decorated those walls is simply awestriking.

The paintings in Chauvet are monochrome. They feature many unusual and dangerous animals (lions, hyenas, panthers, bears) and more usual ones (horses, aurochs, rhinoceros, mammoth), all of them treated with gravity. In contrast with the kind and colorful paintings in Lascaux, these are stern, no-nonsense creatures from an unforgiving world.