20 May 2010

Neanderthal Art - pt. 1

 Early man, painting by Charles R. Knight 1874-1953



Czech artist Zdenek Burian, 1905 - 1981
The second image was used for the cover of a book called Prehistoric Man, published in 1960 it featured a 45 page introduction and 25 color, 17 limited color/black and white illustrations.
(see more on Burian here)

This neanderthal was done in 1909 by another Czech artist, Frantisek Kupka who lived from 1871 to 1957. It was done as an accompanying piece to the work of Marcellin Boule, a French paleontologist who studied and analyzed the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neanderthal skeleton that had been discovered in 1908. It was Boulle's claim that neanderthal was a savage apelike brute, accompanied by Kupka's illustration that colored the perception of neanderthals for decades to come.
(Alas, Marcellin Boulle is not the father of of Planet of the Apes author Pierre Boulle. That would be too amazing.)

It is these changing interpretations and representations of human ancestors that interest me as I believe they reflect the social atmosphere of the time they were created. I believe that the interpretations and explanations that paleontologists and subsequently the artists who interpret their findings are not scientifically objective (I do not think science ever is), rather they are a product of the social and cultural context of the scientist and artist. I'll post more as I find them, but many of the images online are uncredited. This could easily be the subject of a large book, and maybe it will be (or already has been?)

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