bison in altamira cave

Cave art of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is in Spain. In the historic town Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. The cave is famous for its parietal cave paintings that consist of charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of the human hands and local environment. The cave is dated back 18500 and 14000 years back. It falls within the upper Paleolithic age when Paleo human settlers were around.

Marcelino Sanz de Sautola was first to promote the cave as having prehistoric paintings. Together with Juan Vilanova in 1880, their publication of the caves research was made public. Releasing the study was not very welcome, it became controversial, and debates began. They took place until 1902 when similar findings made the evidence overwhelming. The cave of Altamira is a world heritage site as the UNESCO declares.

About the cave of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is a result of the collapse of the new Karst phenomena in Mount Vispieres. The cave is 1000 meters long and has passages and chambers all through the cave. The central passage is about 6-8 meters high. It is a one of a kind cave that is rich in artifacts from the Upper Solutrean and lower Magdalenian.

The two periods fall under the Old Stone Age which shows that the cave had wild animal inhabitants. Humans living in the area took advantage of the plentiful wildlife that was in the valleys and the mountains and the aquatic life in the coastal regions. A rock fall over 13000 years back made the cave no longer accessible. The rock fall became a preservation of the contents of the cave until its discovery.

The discovery of the cave came about when a tree fell, misplacing the blocking rocks. There was evidence that humans were mostly at the mouth of the cave although the paintings were present throughout the cave. The paintings were mostly charcoal and ochre (hematite). The painting process involved diluting the pigments so that they had different intensities to work with comfortably. They took advantage of the contours of the cave to create three-dimensional drawings.

image of altamira bisons

Reproductions at the Museo del Mamut, Barcelona 2011

The cave boasts of a polychrome ceiling that is the catchiest part of the cave. It depicts a herd of Steppe bison that arts extinct, two horses, a large dog and a wild boar. The paintings date back to the Magdalenian age and even include abstract shapes. The Solutrean paintings mainly consist of horse and goat drawings.

There were hand prints too that came about by the artist blowing the pigment over their hands leaving a negative image. No other cave in the northern Europe has detailed and intricate paintings like the Altamira cave.

Discovery of the Cave

The credits go to Marcelino Sanz de Sautola, but the person who found the cave was his eight-year-old daughter Maria de Sautola who had been wandering off from her father when she saw the drawings. Marcelino teamed up with Juan Vilanova an archeologist from the University of Madrid to excavate the cave. The discovery was in 1879.

The publication by Marcelino and Juan got a rejection from Gabriel de Mortillet and Emile Cartailhac. The reason why it was hard to believe that the paintings were prehistoric was that of their quality. These two critics accused Marcelino of forgery. The debate and accusations continued until 1902 when other findings came up.

After the results had been made sure of, Emile took back his words and gave his support to Marcelino. Unfortunately, Marcelino did not live to see the confirmation as he died fourteen years earlier. After the confirmation, excavation was continued by Hermilio del Rio, 1902-1904 and Hugo Obermaier, 1924-1925 and finalized by Joaquin Gonzalez in 1981.

Dating

There is no comprehensive timeline on when the paintings date. In 2008, scientists, using uranium-thorium dating found that the arts are from over a period of 20,000 years. The next dating, done in 2012, where the earliest paintings were found to be from the Augnacian culture, the first occupants of northern Spain, 35,600 years old.

Significance of the cave of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is of a profound cultural significance to Spain, especially in Cantabria. The polychrome paintings in the cave are famous in Spain, and the government of Cantabria uses a logo that derives from the arts to promote tourism. A 20th-century cigarette brand also has a drawing from the cave as part of its logo.

So many things in Cantabria and the wider Spanish region borrow from the cave of Altamira. It makes the cave a very significant part of the area and a very useful discovery that has laid a foundation in the community.

A Spanish comic character and a series are known as Altamiro de la Cueva are because of the cave of Altamira. The storyline of the comic explores the life of cave dwellers. The Caves of Altamira song is a 1976 album that also circles the cave. The song was originally jazz but was then soul group, Perri did another version.

Viktor Schreckengost made dinnerware designs for Salem China that had inspirations from the bison, deer and the stick figures that were in the cave. The dinnerware, made in the mid-20th century. A second song on the cave came up in 1978 by a rock-folk group Ibio. The Bison image is on the cover of the album.

The impact of the cave has been evident in many areas, from entertainment to dinnerware and cultural implications. Modern day film, Altamira by Hugh Hudson in 2016 is about the discovery of the cave. The film stars a famous Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.

The discovery of the cave may have been rocky and disputed but once it gained acceptance everyone was able to see what a remarkable finding the cave is and it has helped benefit many people over time. Cantabria boasts of the status of a world historical site because of the Altamira cave. Even though Marcelino did not live to see the acceptance of his discovery of the cave, he opened the doors to a lifelong treasure that is the Altamira cave.

Greek Mythology Morpheus Fresco Mural Charon

The History of Murals

What is a mural?

A mural is a piece of art that is painted on walls. It can be on the inside of buildings or outside for public display. They are large and take artistic expertise to paint them. The artwork incorporates the architecture of the building to bring out the painting and the building as one.

There is an ongoing debate on whether the drawings that are on canvases then put up on the walls qualify as murals. It is an artistic style that has however been in use since the 19th century. Murals are on only on side walls; they can be on ceilings and floors.#

Brief history of murals

Murals date back to 30,000 BC from the earliest paintings in the Chauvet cave France. The largest numbers of paintings are from Egyptian tombs in 3150BC, Pompeii in 100BC-AD79 and Minoan places 1700-1600BC. The whole period within which ancient paintings are is known as the Upper Paleolithic times.

Dry plaster is how paintings were put together in the Middle Ages, the 14th century. Kerala mural painting is an example of fresco secco. When the technique of painting murals on wet plaster took root in Italy, circa 1300, wall painting quality grew. It is the age where mural painting began to take shape and become modern.

The best-known style of mural painting is Fresco, but there are many methods and techniques as shown by the Mexican muralism art movement that took significant root in modern times. The pioneers of this movement include Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose Orozco.

Fresco technique of mural painting utilizes water soluble paints and lime wash. Applying the mixture on large surface results in a wall painting. Once the mixture dries, the colors take shape. For millennia, another method known as the Marouflage technique has been in use.

Today, people appreciate murals even more, and the methods are different. They now incorporate oil painting which is very popular. There are abstract paintings and trickster murals that are known as Trompe-l’oeil. The significant change came about through the works of Graham Rust and Rainer Maria in the 1980’s. In Europe, oil painting has taken center stage and is in private and public buildings.

Mural painting is revolutionary and proves that walls and ceilings do not have to be plain. Now, wall paintings can be shown by transferring the wall art into a poster paper canvas and then paste on a wall. The art or photographic image gives the illusion of a realistic scene on the wall.

History of mural painting techniques

Fresco paintings are the earliest method used. It came from Italy and came from the word fresh. There are two categories of the art. Fresco is whereby you apply paint on plaster on the walls and ceilings whereas the Buon fresco technique, you paint in pigment and mix it with water on thin wet, lime layer of mortar or plaster. The wet plaster and the dye mix, and when it is dry, the reaction with air glues in place the particles of the pigment.

Fresco Decoration Pictorial Mexico Mural Cancun

Once the process is complete, the painting can last centuries with the pictures looking fresh, and the color is brilliant. Fresco painting is on dry plaster, and therefore the pigment needs a medium like glue, oil, or egg that will fix the pigment to the wall.

Mezzo fresco is another technique that paints on almost dry plaster and came to be in the 16th century by Ignazio Pozzo. The pigment will drive into the plaster lightly and give impeccable murals. The mezzo fresco style of painting considerably took over the Buon fresco method.

Materials used in mural painting

Over the centuries, different materials have been in use for wall painting and the evolution of the techniques has also seen to the change in the materials. The earliest known is the tempera painting which then gave way to oil painting in the 16th century.

Paintings once complete in the old days did not have any protection from sun rays. As the materials and times change, the application of varnish and protective acrylic has taken shape to guard the murals against UV sun rays.

The use of POP clay is what young muralists are using. They mix it with glue to make them even more durable. When the clay dries, you then paint with the colors you want and even apply varnish for protection.

Technology has taken its place in the mural painting. Digital techniques are now taking shape in a mural painting like wall scape. Mural painting has been in constant evolution over the years, and it continues to evolve to incorporate the use of modern materials and pictures.

Advantages of murals

Murals are imperative in the world of art and the contemporary world because they bring art to the public and make people more aware of art. Murals are expensive and take a significant amount of time that is why for a painting to be put up, there has to be a sponsor who is funding the project.

Murals are also a communication tool. You can use a wall painting to communicate the message that you wish the public to know. The size of the painting will attract the attention of the public which makes it an effective way of communicating a message.

Murals affect the attitudes of the people passing by them. Everyone gets their understanding of the painting, and they therefore add aesthetic value to the areas that they are put up. They can be a tourist attraction that brings improvement to the areas.

Murals can also be used as landscapes, especially because they are vast and hard to miss paintings. Every painting is unique, and it’s hard to mistake one for the other. Murals are a way of expression for the muralists. It is their way of speaking to people and the world. They command the attention of the people and leave their mark in the area for centuries to come

Murals are continually coming up, and most people are now aware of the existence of paintings, their artistic value and their significance in the community. They take time and patience to put up and with modern technology taking over, the evolution of muralism is even faster than before.