One up for women artists! by Jeannine Cook

It's another "revision of history"! It has always been assumed that all those wonderful artists that created such astonishing art in the Paleolithic era in caves and on rock faces around Europe were... men. Shamans, hunters, adolescent boys finding out about sexuality - all manner of theories abound about the artists who left us such dazzlingly powerful art at Altamira, Lascaux, Grotte Chauvet, Foz Coa. ( and for a start). Remember that this art was created, it is believed, between 35,000 and 11,000 years ago.

In June's edition of National Geographic (, I happened to notice a small paragraph which riveted me to attention, because it has lots of ramifications. Apparently archaeologist Dean Snow has been analysing the art on the walls of a Spanish cave, El Castillo, where the art has been dated to 28,000 years ago. As in so many of the caves, El Castillo apparently has many hand stencils, where outlines of outstretched hands are made on the walls, usually with reddish ochre which could have been blown over the hand to create the stencils.

Hand stencils at El Castillo, Spain

Hand stencils at El Castillo, Spain

After analysis of these stencils, Dr. Snow's conclusion is that many of the artists working in the cave could have been women. Well, well. The suggestion thus is that women may have played a far greater role in the culture of those distant prehistoric times than has been recognised heretofore. Hardly surprising, is it.

Art - a Golden Thread through Life by Jeannine Cook

Art seems to exert an extraordinary power over so many different people. Artists, understandably, have a passion for what they are doing. But then there is the other side of the equation - the collectors, the public that views art of all description, the sponsors and all those who form a constituency for art. It is no wonder that more and more people view art not only as an investment per se but also as an economic driving force for communities who actively embrace the arts.

Historically, for instance, the great museum collections of the world have been largely formed, at least initially, by wealthy private art collectors who then donated their collections. Names such as Frick, Morgan, Getty, Guggenheim, Whitney, Rockefeller, Mellon or Annenberg all evoke remarkable monies and energies poured into collecting art. In the same way, kings and nobility in Europe and beyond had done the same thing down the centuries. Early in the 20th century, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov carried on that tradition in Russia. Today, a plethora of collectors worldwide follow suite - from Baron Thyssen to Charles Saatchi, Ronald Lauder or Francois Pinault. But beyond the wealth and connoisseurship, there is a driving force involved with art - people just get hooked.

We have all experienced it at some point. You round a corner in a museum, or walk past a gallery window, and you spot a piece of art - painting, sculpture, drawing, whatever... It stops you in your tracks. You are drawn back to it, to look more closely at it, to ponder, to enjoy, to understand, to remember... often eventually to buy for yourself, if possible.

That is when the golden thread of art re-twists itself around you, enriching and expanding your world. The artist may not even be aware that the created work will have such a reaction in a viewer, but the passion in the art clicks with a passion evoked in the viewer. Of course, there are innumerable sensible and hopefully educated criteria by which to judge and appraise a work of art. In the end, however, a true collector and lover of art will boil down all the considerations to one : do I love this piece of art enough to want to live with it?

Art's golden, silken thread weaves though life in so many unexpected ways. You never know when you are going to fall in love with a piece of art, nor what form that art will take. From the artist's point of view, you never know what form inspiration will take next nor where your art will take you in the creative process. Nor, for that matter, what experiences will present themselves or which kindred spirits one will meet through art.

The more I travel though life as an artist and art-lover, the more I understand how necessary it was already to our ancestors of 30,000 years ago that Lasceaux, Altamira, Chauvet and other caves were being filled with wonderful art. People knew even then how important it was to the human psyche that art should grace our lives.